Police have arrested one of two men allegedly responsible for the shooting death of a gay man who was hit by a stray bullet in Manhattan in June, but the victim’s surviving spouse is not celebrating.
Terry Solomon, the husband of the late Winston McKay, told Gay City News following that arrest that the NYPD’s 30th precinct and the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office have spent the last several months discriminating against him due to his sexual orientation by blowing off his questions and instead contacting the victim’s mother to provide updates about the case — even though he’s next of kin. NYPD officers, he said, have even laughed at him when he has sought answers from them about his husband’s death.
McKay had just finished celebrating his wedding anniversary with Solomon and their loved ones when he was walking his dog on Amsterdam Avenue at West 146 Street shortly after 2 a.m. on June 10. Strangers across the street were, according to the Manhattan DA, engaged in a drug-related altercation, and one man fired a rifle at another — but inadvertently shot McKay in his leg. Emergency responders rushed to the scene and transported him to Harlem Hospital, but it was too late. Doctors told an NYPD detective he died due to “a gunshot that traveled through his right thigh and into his left thigh that caused extensive vascular and arterial damage,” according to the DA.
In the days following McKay’s death, police identified one suspect, 20-year-old Erick Batista, who remains at large and is described as the shooter in a complaint from the DA’s office obtained by Gay City News. But on October 21, authorities busted Ozjheir McClain, 19, of Syracuse, on a second-degree murder charge in connection with the shooting. McClain is said to have told prosecutors he was serving as a lookout while Batista sought to “run up” a man with whom he had a disagreement.
“Defendant stated that he observed Batista aim the rifle at the man’s head, but the rifle initially jammed,” the complaint noted. “Batista then pulled the bolt of the rifle, re-aimed, and fired.”
Gathering even basic information about the case, however, has been a struggle for Solomon, who said he lives near the 30th precinct, which has jurisdiction over his husband’s killing. He said he has gone to the precinct once per week since the murder to check for updates, but described those visits as being rife with discrimination.
“I got laughed at,” he said in an interview with Gay City News. “Literally, they’re laughing at me. I said, ‘Is something funny?’ I got humiliated. It’s hard for them to believe that I was married to this man, whether they want to accept it or not. I think there’s no compassion toward us gay people.”
Solomon doesn’t believe that same kind of approach would be taken toward a straight person whose spouse was recently murdered. He said he has often left the precinct empty-handed after officers offered numerous excuses regarding why they couldn’t assist him on that given day.
“This person is busy, that person is busy, the detective is busy,” he said. “I even left my email and my office number.”
While Solomon has been left in the dark about his late husband’s case, he doesn’t understand why authorities have been happy to report updates to McKay’s mother.
“I am the spouse,” he said. “I’m still hurting and you can’t even give me the sense of relief to call me? I’m sitting here, like, am I the spouse? Did I actually marry this man? I have legal documents from the courthouse saying that we were married and that doesn’t mean anything. They just bypass me.”
Solomon said that there have been times when he has learned updates about the case while watching television. He then gets bombarded with calls from loved ones, which overwhelms him with profound feelings of emotion about his late husband.
Gay City News contacted the NYPD and the Manhattan DA’s office to ask about Solomon’s exclusion from regular updates about the case and to offer them an opportunity to respond to allegations of discrimination. A person who answered the phone at the 30th precinct on October 23 told Gay City News that those in the precinct are “not allowed to make any comments,” and he referred the inquiry to the NYPD’s press office. The NYPD did not return requests for comment.
The day after Gay City News contacted the DA’s office, however, Solomon said he suddenly received three calls from them and four emails — a huge difference when compared to before when he was the one who had to pry information from authorities.
“Maybe that’s why they’ve been calling me today,” he said on October 24.
The DA’s office did not directly respond to questions about what courtesies it has extended to Solomon, but said in a written statement that the office is “committed to treating all crime victims and their family members with compassion. We offer Mr. McKay’s loved ones our sincerest condolences, and we will do everything we can to bring justice for this family.”
In response to that statement, Solomon told Gay City News that he simply wants authorities to find justice for his husband. As for the NYPD, he continued to express his displeasure with the department’s handling of the case.
“I have no respect for the police officers in that precinct,” Solomon said. “I am happy that a suspect is in custody, but I’m not happy about the way things worked out.”
He concluded, “I was mistreated because I was a gay male.”