Group that handles Detroit crimes against LGBT communities needs support

FAIR Michigan tackles hate crimes against the LGBT community but needs a helping hand from the public.

It is a major effort to investigate and prosecute both current and cold case crimes against Michigan's LGBTQ community.

The Fair Michigan Justice Project provides an investigator and special prosecutor for serious crimes against the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities and it is looking for the public's support.

The video of Stephen Edwards threatening a gay man with a gun in a store parking lot - then posting another video ranting against homosexuals went viral. They are crimes that now have him facing a judge, while his victim is speaking out.

"My reaction was like, please don't pull the trigger," said Tyrone McGough.

McGough is 23-years-old and he had never experienced anything like this - but it happened last month. At the same time Fair Michigan announced new efforts to solve and prosecute crimes against the LGBTQ community

"To put it all over social media represents a pretty bold action toward our community," said Erica Moise, vice president of Fair Michigan. "And those are the types of  things that we're designed to investigate and make sure that you're not going to get away with that."

"I didn't know what to do," said McGough. "I felt so comfortable when I found out that people were going after this guy for me."

It's not the only case Fair Michigan is working on - cold cases that happened near Six Mile and Woodward - like the murders of Amber Monroe and Melvin - plus the murder just three weeks ago of Harrison Thornton - the ex-fiancée of Fair Michigan's transgender outreach coordinator.

"Since I've been here I've lost several friends," said Julisa Abad. "I never imagined that three weeks ago it would hit so close to home and be someone that I shared so much with."

There have been so many crimes it is a challenge for the investigative team at Fair Michigan to keep up.

"You see it happening almost every day, there is something new that is happening in the community," said Tonya Griffith, clinical therapist/victim advocate, Fair Michigan.

"We've had so many people calling," said Jaimie Powell-Horowitz, assistant prosecutor. "Reaching out to report crimes, people who do not report to the police but feel they have a safe place to come with us."

"The law enforcement agencies when we reach out to them are being wonderful about supporting and providing resources to investigate cases," said Vicki Yost, special investigator. "It's working exactly - to be honest - how we had hoped it would."

But it doesn't come without a cost  - operating under a grant for the first year - the founders are already launching a fundraiser to keep this project going as long as it's needed.

"I thought we were going to be starting with the cold cases but we have new cases also to work on since the announcement," said Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy. "So it just proves this was a fabulous idea and it was sorely needed."

"We had no idea how many cases there really were and how many phone calls we would end up getting," said Dana Nessel, president of Fair Michigan. "So now what looked like it was going to be a small pilot project, is really much more of a full-time endeavor. And it requires a big staff."

A staff that Tyrone McGough feels lucky to have fighting for him.

"The LGBT community, we finally have someone that's there for us in our corner to help us," he said.

The fundraiser for Fair Michigan is Thursday, Aug. 18 at Burton Manor in Livonia. For more information, CLICK HERE.

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