Gay Man Files Lawsuit Against Hitchcock Residents and Blaine County Sheriffs

A federal lawsuit last week revealed alleged hate crimes in the nearby Blaine County town of Hitchcock that were deemed among the worst ever seen by Freedom Oklahoma Executive Director Troy Stevenson, a statewide LGBTQ rights organization.

"We must not forget that after years of progress, crimes of bias still exist,” said Stevenson in a press release. “The allegations in Hitchcock are horrific, and show the intersection of hate aimed at the both the African-American and LGBTQ Communities. Freedom Oklahoma stands with all victims of bias, and will work vigilantly to ensure the state of Oklahoma passes Bias-Crime Protections for all Oklahomans.”
Randy Gamel-Medler, a gay man, filed a federal equal rights protection lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma against nine defendants from Blaine County, which include the Mayor of Hitchcock, Rick Edsall, Sheriff of Blaine County, Tony Almaguer, and Undersheriff of Blaine County, David Robertson.

The lawsuit includes state law claims for assault, battery, destruction of real and personal property, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The complaint details alleged months of police and government inaction in response to homophobic and racist harassment and threats toward Gamel-Medler, his husband, Ralph, and his seven-year-old African-American son, Xavian.

“They literally erased us,” said plaintiff Gamel-Medler, who now lives in El Paso, Texas. “Everything we’ve owned for 27 years is now gone. We’ve literally been erased out of Oklahoma.”

Gamel-Medler and his husband, Ralph, found their ideal retirement home, a six-bedroom fixer upper in the tiny western Oklahoma town of Hitchcock.

They purchased the home back in 2014, and Gamel-Medler moved to the less than 100 resident community from Fort Worth, Texas, to work on upgrading their new home.

Right off the bat, he befriended neighbors, took an interest in town politics and soon became the town clerk.

“When I was working on the house I met everybody,” Gamel-Medler said. “I met my neighbors, I met the mayor, and they thought it was great that I was fixing the house up.”

But it wasn’t long before Gamel began feuding with longtime residents over how the town should be run.

Gamel-Medler pointed to several examples of the town not following state statues and ethical codes as the start of the rocky relationship with the Town of Hitchcock, during an interview with the Watonga Republican.

“The law applies to everybody, but in Hitchcock, it doesn’t,” Gamel-Medler said. “All of a sudden I’m the bully because I made them do things that they didn’t want to do…I was just following the law that they agreed to when they appointed me because I’m legally responsible.”

Gamel-Medler did cite several specific instances of alleged misconduct by the town of Hitchcock. However, attempts to reach town officials for a response were unsuccessful.

As a result of Gamel-Medler’s attempt to correct these accusations, the Blaine County Sheriff’s Office were soon being called to the town regularly to settle disputes involving Gamel and other townspeople.

In September of 2016, at a Hitchcock council meeting, Meridath Norris, a trustee of the Town of Hitchcock, upon learning that Gamel-Medler had an African-American son, said at the meeting “What’s going to happen when your house burns down and we don’t send out the fire trucks?”, according to the complaint.

In early May of 2017, Gamel-Medler was performing his duties as town clerk by clearing an obstruction from the road when he was assaulted by defendant Jonita Pauls Jacks, a convicted felon, who tried to enter Gamel-Medler’s truck and then after realizing it was locked began shaking the truck, called him a “f***ing queer,” and stated, “I’m going to grab your little boy, rip his n***er head off, and sh** down his throat,” the complaint stated.

When Gamel-Medler attempted to file a police report after this incident, the Blaine County Sheriff refused to take a report and advised that Hitchcock Mayor Rick Edsall had already been in to describe this incident to the police, Gamel-Medler said in the complaint.

Someone within the Blaine County Sheriff’s Office, said that this is just how these folks are, and characterized the incident as free speech, the complaint continued.

Over the next few weeks, the complaint states that one or more of the defendants threw gravel several times at Gamel-Medler’s home, posted a sign outside of the post office stating that “the town clerk is a “f***ing queer,” and attempted to run a friend of Gamel-Medler’s off of the road.

On May 28, 2017, the complaint notes that “Gamel-Medler heard the sound of glass breaking in his garage and called the Sheriff’s office to report a burglary. He then saw a fire in his garage and called the fire department. Despite the fire department being located one block away from Gamel-Medler’s home, the fire department failed to arrive until the house had burned to the ground. While the house was burning, a number of the named defendants watched it burn, including Mayor of Hitchcock Rick Edsall, who sat and watched with his family in lawn chairs.”

Gamel-Medler and his husband were planning on adopting five more children just before the fire occurred, but the adoptions have since been put on hold.

“We invested every penny of our savings in that house because that was going to be our home for life,” Gamel-Medler said. “When our son grew up there would always be a place for him to come back. We were getting ready to adopt five more children and my son asks when he’s getting his brothers and sisters, but now we can’t because we don’t have a home.”

However, Blaine County Undersheriff Robertson strongly disputed Gamel’s allegations.

“I can say the allegations are false and we’re confident that the truth will come out pretty soon,” Robertson said.

Robertson told the Associated Press that the feuds were real, but described Gamel as a “bully” who sought to impose his will on the town and was constantly alleging wrongdoing by town officers.

“I got to know him very well from all the complaints and allegations that he made, and I cannot find one person who made any racist statements against his child or against him for being a homosexual,” Robertson said in a story from the Associated Press. “We don’t take too kindly to being called racist and homophobic, because we’re not.”

Hitchcock Mayor Edsall said the accusations about him and the town aren’t true as well.

“It’s a farming community,” he told News 9 in a TV interview. “Everybody knows everybody. He moved in and started stirring up crap.”

“Our fire department was at the fire within six minutes, putting the water on it,” he continued. “I was in my robe, fixing to go to bed when I heard the ruckus, and I went down there and grabbed a hose and started spraying.”

Robertson told the Associated Press an arson investigation is currently underway.

Civil rights organizations, including Freedom Oklahoma, are speaking out in support of Gamel-Medler and his family.

“It’s just shocking,” Stevenson said. “This reads like something out of the 1960’s of civil rights movement. The fact that there’s so much alleged racist bias toward the young son is just tragic.”

“I do know that [the defendants] have been speaking pretty openly to the press, myself and everyone that asks, and they’re not making a great case for themselves,” Stevenson continued. “I spoke to the undersheriff, and he didn’t deny to not taking the reports for Randy and he admitted that a sign was put up and was since taken down. I feel comfortably after speaking to him that a lot of this despise was true.”

In late June of 2016, Gamel-Medler came to the Watonga Republican’s office alleging that a Watonga church wouldn’t let him and his African-American son, Xavian, attend their church. Therefore, he took out a classified ad that said the following:

“WANTED: Is there any church in Blaine County where we can worship. White, gay father with a young, black son. I can’t bear to see my son cry again when I have to tell him we’ve been told we’re not welcome any longer at the church we’ve been going to. We’re told God’s grace, mercy and love isn’t meant for us. All replies will be answered, even the ugly ones.”

Gamel-Medler have since been invited to attend the Missionary Baptist Church in Watonga and claims no ill will toward the town.

On Thursday, August 10, Freedom Oklahoma will be visiting the Blaine County Sheriff’s Office and Hitchcock to file Open Records requests, and the organization is calling on the OSBI, FBI and the state fire marshal to conduct a separate investigation.

“They’ve dug their own grave,” Gamel-Medler said. “It doesn’t involve Blaine County anymore, it involves a federal court and a jury trial. If these people of Hitchcock and the sheriff’s want to get up there and lie in front of that jury then they can do that, but it’s not going to work. I can prove everything that I said.”

The next step is getting the various defendants response when they release there answering to the initial complaint.

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