Was a ’Straight’ Man Killed by Police in Newark, NJ, Park Cruising for Sex?
A married businessman in town for a class reunion allegedly approached a police officer in a Newark, New Jersey, park, and propositioned him for sex. What happened next, the alleged suspect’s friends and family say, beggars belief: when the officer attempted to arrest him, the man threw the officer to the ground and took off. When the officer caught up with him, the suspect reportedly tried to attack the officer, who shot him down; three hours later, the suspect died in a local hospital, according to a July 20 New York Times article.
The suspect in the case was DeFarra "Dean" Gaymon, 48, a father of four and head of the Credit Union of Atlanta. The park in question was Branch Brook Park, a well-known gay cruising ground.
But Gaymon’s surviving family members indicated in a statement that they did not believe the story about what happened that Friday night, July 16. “We know that the police killed an innocent man, with no history of or disposition towards violence,” the statement declared.
The article described the events leading up to the tragedy as fairly typical: a pair of undercover police officers were patrolling the park, on the lookout for public sexual activity. The unidentified police officer had become separated from his partner at about 6:00 that evening, having lost his handcuffs while pursuing a suspect. It was while retrieving his lost handcuffs that the officer allegedly encountered Gaymon, who, according to officials, was already displaying sexual conduct when the two encountered one another. Officials say that Gaymon then propositioned the officer, at which point the officer identified himself. Gaymon allegedly then knocked the officer down and fled, leading to the chase, the confrontation, and the shooting.
“All the people that knew him say you never met a kinder, nicer, more gentle person, and they’re stunned about what happened,” the Montclair High School Alumni Association’s John Joyce told the New York Times. Gaymon had helped to organize the 30-year reunion of his Montclair high school class, the article said.
The incident marked the sixth fatal police shooting in Newark, according to a July 20 article in local newspaper the Star-Ledger, though no other shootings took place during police patrols of the park, which is known as a cruising area. Police have responded to complaints about public sex in the park by stepping up patrols there, and have arrested about 200 men in the last year and a half.
The police expressed their condolences over the shooting, but Gaymon’s family members reiterated their doubts. “There’s nothing threatening about his character,” Kelly Gaymon Armstrong, the sister of the deceased, told the Star-Ledger. “He’s a softie. It doesn’t add up.”
Said former Montclair classmate Kerry Asbury, “[Reunion attendees] were shocked to hear about the death. He wasn’t that type of guy. But we don’t know what happened.” Added Asbury, “I’m just saying, don’t pass judgment if you don’t know what happened.”
An officer with the Newark police envisioned a situation in which “[Gaymon’s] life must have flashed before his eyes and he went into a panic.”
“We’re saddened by this tragedy and our heartfelt condolences go out to his family,” said Sheriff Armando Fontoura.
The 29-year-old officer who shot Gaymon is an eight-year veteran of the force, media stories said, and was so “traumatized” by the shooting that he was treated with medication.