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 Tucson Gay Museum«© -  Richard J. "Dickie" Heakin Jr. Collectionę


 Richard J. "Dickie" Heakin Jr.

 Richard J. "Dickie" Heakin Jr.

 Richard J. "Dickie" Heakin Jr.
There was no other event that brought the Gays-Lesbians-Bisexuals-Transgendered of Tucson together in the later 1970's as a Tucson LGBT Community more than the tragic-brutal-senseless murder of vacationing 21 year old Richard J. Heakin who on the early morning of Friday June 6, 1976 when leaving the Stonewall Tavern Inn Disco at 2921 N. 1st Avenue just south of Fort Lowell Road with friends, was attacked and beaten to death by some of the thirteen (13) local high school students involved as a group who had been looking for trouble all that night. The murderer(s) and accomplices were local 15 to 17 year old teenage boys who had been cruising Speedway Boulevard all the night before 'looking for homos to beat up'.

All were underage, drinking alcohol, out past curfew, and taking drugs. Just after midnight, the four (4) car loads of high school students decided to go to the Stonewall Tavern Inn (see articles) with no other purpose than to 'fuck up some homos'. The savage attack that ended in murder was for no other reason than Mr. Heakin and his friends had just walked out of a Gay Bar.

Of the attackers who were arrested after fleeing to their homes and set to be tried as adults, only four young men, Charles J. Shemwell 17 of 3450 W. Potvin Lane, a student on the varsity football team at Marana High School and martial arts practioner, Herman Jesus Overpeck, 15 of 308 W. Jacinto Street, a freshman student on the football and wrestling teams at Ampitheater High School, Scott Mc Donald, 16 of 6645 N. Donna Beatrix Circle, a student at Amphitheater High School, and Russel Van Cleave, 16 of 1330 W. Knox Street, a student at Flowing Wells High School were the only ones ever charged with counts of first degree murder, conspiracy to commit 'aggrevated' assault, violation of being out past curfew, and were set to be tried as adults.

The vicious group of high school age students had been verbally and physically harassing other customers of the Stonewall Inn Tavern just prior to murdering Richard J. Heakin and attacking his friends.

The bartender Bruce Cole working inside had no idea that the crime that would result in murder was unfolding just outside. At the Richard J. Heakin funeral well over 120 cars were counted in the procession to the cemetery that day. The Richard J. Heakin murder did push the City of Tucson on February 4, 1977 to become one of the first in the entire nation to pass anti-discrimination legislation based on sexual orientation. Sadly, the Heakin murder in Tucson was not an isolated incident as many Gays around the United States were also being targeted for bullying, beatings, or to be murdered in various cities and towns sometimes even by the police themselves. Almost a year after the Richard J. Heakin murder outside in its dirt parking lot, the Stonewall Tavern Inn co-owned by Tom Seward, who lived at 1216 N. Euclid Avenue, and John D. Morgan living at 2608A E. Fort Lowell Road was forced to close on Wednesday January 12, 1977 due to the very sharp drop in business and huge increases in the costs of insurance required to cover the bar's daily operation making it economically no longer possible to keep the doors open.

The adjoining bar, the Back Pocket which had opened on Tuesday April 6, 1976 was much smaller and it remained open for business. The September 9, 1976 trial was presided over by Judge Ben C. Birdsall, the presiding judge of the superior court, who had previously been relieved of his judicial duties of a case (see article... #2...see paragraph #4) before in January of 1971 when he continually made damaging prejudical and predudiced statements to the press about the Pioneer Hotel Fire Arson trial that he was going to be the judge in (see article).

The judges interference in the legal process was so reckless that another judge from a different Arizona county Judge Lloyd C. Helm of Cochise County was brought in to try that case. Only four (4) of the students ever stood trial out of the thirteen (13) students who were implicated or involved in the crimes and or who were accomplices in some way in the early June 6, 1976 morning murder of the young Gay man Richard J. Heakin. Judge Ben C. Birdsall in a surprise move quickly dropped the students charges from 1st Degree Murder down to Involuntary Manslaughter (often the charge when someone is accidently killed as the result of a car crash), and from being tried as adults to being tried as children thus sealing the trial records of the accused from being seen forever.

The judge then totally ignored the testimony of all the witnesses and ruled that he could find no evidence of malice or premeditation in the students actions that morning or the night before and gave (3) of the four accused simple probation (informal supervision by living at home, going to school ) for their savage attacks of anti gay hate and commiting murder partially due to their parents standings in the community, that the young men were athletes and good boys in school, Anti-Gay feelings by officials, and their parents abilities to work the legal system with all of their attorneys. The 4th student Scott Mc Donald was recovering from a football game injury gotten while he was awaiting trial, and was tried later with the same results of only informal probation. Judge Birdsall was quoted saying after the trial, "The four youths and their parents have been punished enough."

The next day all of the youths involved were back in school still bullying the other students and at times also some of the teachers, the youths had soon shaved their heads "Mohawk Style" in solidarity, and openly paraded around together at school like heros who had 'Murdered a Homo' and gotten away with it 'Scott Free' as they joked around school."

Coming together in huge numbers for the first time as a result, Tucson's Gays & Lesbians stood up as a Community helping spearheading through the efforts of the recently formed political action effort named  Tucson Gay Coalition which began pushing back hard on Tucson and Pima County Officials for simply getting the basic legal protection-rights already afforded under Chapter 17 of the City Code to all other residents of the city, for passing hate crime laws, and to be represented on city boards and or commissions.

Attempts by the Gay Community in Tucson were also made to recall (note bottom of page #6) Judge Ben C. Bridsall (see article... page# 4) from the bench and have him disbarred as an attorney but were never successful in the legal atmosphere of Tucson and Arizona during the time in the 1970's.

The June 1977 Richard J. Heakin Jr. Memorial Picnic and Tucson Gay Pride gathering was as much about remembering Mr. Heakin as it was celebrating local Gay Pride.

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This Museum is dedicated to all those of the Tucson Gay Lesbian Bisexual Transgender Queer Community that have come before, are here now, and will take our places in the future of Tucson, Arizona, U.S.A.