Teen Arrested After Using A Dating App To Target Gay Men In Shootings

Police in Waco, Texas have charged a 17-year old in connection with a string of shootings one week ago that left one man dead and two others injured. Damarion Trammell Degrate was arrested by authorities late last week, several days after officials asked the public for help in identifying the suspect as well as urging social media users to be cautious when meeting strangers. Degrate allegedly used a dating app to find his targets, according to the Waco PD.

“We identified early in the investigation a link between the three shootings and the danger this suspect presented to our community,” said interim chief of police, Frank Gentsch on the department’s Facebook page. “The arrest today was the result of our special crimes detectives’ tireless efforts, along with our support staff, including our crime scene unit and computer forensic unit. I also want to thank the FBI and the United States Marshal Service for their assistance in these cases.”

Degrate stands accused of murdering 23-year old Jonathan Breeding, as well as attempted murder charge for a second shooting. It’s unclear whether police have officially connected Degrate to the third shooting, though police have indicated it too involved a meetup after an online connection. The Waco Tribune-Herald has a timeline of the three shootings, all of which happened within hours of each other.

Degrate is accused of shooting a man at about 12:30 a.m. Monday in the Brookview neighborhood, Mottley said. The man fled to a corner store near North 23rd Street and Grim Avenue seeking help, police have previously said.

About two hours after the first shooting, police responded to a call at 34th Street and Brook Circle and found Jonathan Breeding, 23, in his vehicle with a gunshot wound. Breeding later died at a local hospital.

Police responded to another call at about 6 a.m. and found a third man with a gunshot wound near North 36th Street and Grim Avenue.

While police haven’t announced any motivation for the shootings, it doesn’t sound like any of the victims were robbed, nor is Degrate currently facing any robbery charges. Instead, it looks like the men may have been targeted because of their sexuality. It will be up to the local prosecutor to determine if Degrate will face hate crime enhancements in the shootings, and we’ll likely learn the prosecutor’s decision sometime this week.

In their announcement of Degrate’s arrest, Waco reminded the public, especially members of the LGBTQ+ community, to first meet up with your Internet hookup in a public place. That makes sense, but it’s obviously not going to prevent every kind of attack. I’d go a step further and say that if you’re meeting an Internet stranger, you should at least be aware that it could end badly and be prepared to act in self-defense if necessary. I don’t think the Pink Pistols has an official chapter just for Waco, but the group’s website does list a central Texas chapter, and I suspect they’ve been getting quite a few calls over the past few days from people wanting to know more about buying and using a gun for self-defense.

Granted, it’s been a couple of decades since I’ve been on the dating scene, but if you’re a concealed carry holder, I see nothing wrong with lawfully carrying when you’re meeting someone for the first time. If you’re not a gun owner, or are reluctant to go strapped on your first date, consider less-lethal options like a stun gun or pepper spray. From alleged rapes to armed robberies, there’ve been plenty of reports recently of individuals using dating or hook-up apps to find their victims. Swipe right all you like, but remember that personal protection goes beyond just practicing safe sex.

 

 

 

Mar 03, 2021 10:30 AM ET