Man Opens Fire on Gay Bar

ByABC News
September 24, 2000, 1:29 AM

R O A N O K E, Va., Sept. 24 -- A man who said he wanted to shoot gay peopleand asked the way to the nearest gay bar later opened fire there,killing one person and wounding six others, police said.

The suspect walked into the Backstreet Cafe late Friday, ordereda beer and after a few minutes pulled a handgun from his coat andbegan firing, said police spokeswoman Shelly Alley.

Seven of the 25 people in the bar were wounded, one critically.Danny Lee Overstreet, 43, died at the scene in what police wereinvestigating as a hate crime.

It sounded like firecrackers at first, said a woman who saidshe was sitting in a booth when the shooting began. She asked notto be identified for fear she might lose her job.

I looked up and saw people falling to the ground, she said.You could feel the wind off the bullets, they were so close.

Held Without Bail

Ronald Edward Gay, 53, was charged with murder in connectionwith the shootings and was being held without bail today.Additional charges were expected, Alley said.

Police said Gay had been in a different bar Friday and had askedpatrons there where the citys nearest gay bar was, tellingwitnesses he wanted to shoot some gay people.

One person gave the man directions and then called police, whoarrived at the Backstreet Cafe shortly after the shooting.

Officers found Gay walking down a street about two blocks fromthe Backstreet Cafe and arrested him, Alley said. She said policefound a 9 mm pistol in a trash can near the bar.

The shooting came one week after members of Roanokes gay andlesbian community held a gay pride festival.

Candlelight Vigil

Members of the Washington-based National Gay and Lesbian TaskForce came to Roanoke for a candlelight vigil Saturday night.Outside the Backstreet Cafe, flowers, cards and balloons were leftby members of the community.

Larry Payne, co-owner of a gay and lesbian book and gift shop afew blocks from the bar, said there had not been any growingtension or acts of violence against gays in Roanoke. I think thisguy had a problem with his name. He probably got picked on andpicked on as a kid, he said.