July 6, 1999 -- U.S. Army private Barry Winchell dies after fellow soldier Calvin Glover beats him to death with a baseball bat.
The 21-year-old Winchell was stationed at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. His 27-year-old roommate, Justin Fisher, was a budding alcoholic with severe emotional problems and a vicious homophobic streak. In March 1999, Fisher and other Army soldiers took Winchell to Connections, a large drag club in Nashville, Tennessee (about 50 miles away). Winchell met the 28-year-old Addams that night. The two began dating, and Winchell seemed unconcerned that Addams was a preoperative biological male.
Fisher, however, immediately began taunting Winchell within a week of their trip to Connections. The verbal attacks on Winchell, an outstanding soldier with the 101st Airborne who'd gotten the nickname "Top Gun" for his proficiency with a .50-caliber machine gun, spread so that almost everyone in his barracks were calling him "homo", "faggot", "queer", "rope sucker", "butt pirate", and "shim" ("she and him"). Even sergeants took part in the attacks; one loudly declared he was going to "get that little faggot".
That week after the first trip to Connections, Fisher told his section leader, Sgt. Michael Kleifgen, that a soldier in his barracks was gay. Kleifgen immediately broke the "don't ask, don't tell" federal law and began questioning soldiers directly about their sexual orientation. Fleifgen focused on Winchell. Winchell denied he was gay, and the probe ended.
But the harassment of Winchell, which was now becoming physical, did not end. Kleifgen became aware of it, but felt iwas "good-hearted fun". Winchell tried to maintain good relations with his tormentors. Fisher repeatedly asked him to return to Connections, and they went there several weekends in a row. Fisher even bragged about kissing a male drag performer.
Fisher was joined in his heavy harassment of Winchell by Pvt. Calvin Glover, a 19-year-old severe alcoholic from Oklahoma. Glover was a racist and anti-semitic. But Glover also knew many gay teenagers while growing up, and had never shown any homophobia before. But suddenly, he was Winchell's chief harasser.
Heavy drinking was common at Ft. Campbell, even among minors like Glover.
On July 3, soldiers at the base began a three-day party of extremely heavy drinking. Glover spent the afternoon seeking out Winchell, calling him names, humiliating him in numerous ways, and physically intimidating him. Then Glover began bragging to his buddies about he had taken drugs and robbed banks when he was a kid. Winchell called him out on his lies, and told him to take his "drunk, cherry ass" to bed. Glover attempted to attack Winchell, but Fisher got in his way. Glover demanded to be allowed to hit Winchell, and Fisher stepped out of the way. Glover tried to knock a bottle of beer out of Winchell's hand. Finally, Winchell slapped Glover in the face three or four times, then grabbed him around the waist, threw him to the ground, and held him there. Fisher and another soldier separated them. Winchell tried to apologize, but Glover shouted, "It ain’t over! I will fucking kill you! We ain't through!" Winchell started crying. Glover followed him around, growling "It ain't over."
Winchell went inside the barracks. Soldiers tried to calm Glover down, but Glover kept repeating, "I won't let a faggot kick my ass." Winchell came back outside, tried to make peace with Glover by offering him beer, even a bottle of Southern Comfort. Glover refused the apology, but seemed calmer. A few hours later, Glover seemed to have calmed down, even playing wiffle ball with Winchell.
On July 4, Fisher began taunting Glover in the morning. "How does it feel to have your ass kicked by a faggot?" Glover seethed. "Don't worry, I'm gonna tell everyone at work next week that you got your ass kicked by a faggot." Glover got away from him during the afternoon, but that evening Fisher sought him out and loudly said, "I can't believe you got your ass kicked by a faggot!"
The heavy drinking continued into the night, and Winchell went to bed on a cot in in the hallway outside his and Fisher's room.
Around 11:30 PM, Fisher bought two 40-ounce bottles of Olde English 800 malt liquor for himself and Glover. They sat in Glover’s room, drinking. Fisher again taunted Glover that "everyone is going to think you're a pussy" and claiming taht Winchell had been "talking shit" about Glover. The two then went to Fisher's room. As they went inside, Glover hissed, "What is that faggot doing sleeping out here?"
Glover and Fisher began harassing Winchell, punching him in the head and running back to Fisher's room before Winchell was fully awake. Winchell finally confronted them, then went back to sleep.
Fisher and Glover were still drinking, and began listening to the soundtrack from Gus Van Sant’s 1998 remake of "Psycho". Glover picked up a baseball bat in Fisher's room and began swinging it around, saying how he'd like to beat Winchell. For ten minutes, he swing the bat, whispering, "I ought to go outside and fuck him up."
"Then go for it," Fisher said.
At 2:30 AM, Glover left Fisher's room, picked up a baseball bat, and walked to Winchell's cot. Glover swung the bat five or six times. He hit Winchell so hard that parts of Winchell's brain extruded through his left ear. Blood covered the walls and ceilings, splashing 15 feet down the hall. Winchell is hit in the forehead, the temple, and the jaw. Blood flows from his nose, mouth, and ears.
Glover spent 25 minutes beating Barry Winchell to death, contemplating each blow before delivering it.
Returning to Fisher's room, Glover gave Fisher the bloodstained bat, who casually washed it off. They agree to keep the attack "in the family". After 10 minutes, the two left Fisher's room. As they pass the dying Winchell, Glover gloated: "Look who got their ass kicked now, faggot. You won't be kicking anybody's ass now, faggot." He then hit Winchell in the face for good measure, leaving blood all over his white gloves. Fisher asked if Winchell was dead. Glover raised Winchell's head by the hair and let it drop. "He's dead," Glover said.
The two considered putting Winchell's body Winchell's car and dumping the car in the river, but they can't find Winchell's car keys. Glover remembers he had stolen cookies from a tin box in Winchell's room earlier that night; he threw the tin away.
Fisher, staring right at Glover, then began yelling for Winchell to "get up" -- acting as if he had just found Winchell. Glover calmly left the barracks. Somewhere around 3:30 AM, Glover returned to the barracks, wearing only black running shorts and carrying a T-shirt. He and his clothes are soaking wet, and his is covered in grass clippings. He asked what happened, and a soldier told him that Winchell was throwing up blood. "How did it happen?" Glover asked.
During the morning of July 5, the Army tells Pat Kutteles, Winchell's mother, that her son was "kicked in the head" by a boot. Army superiors order the barracks cleaned, even though it is a crime scene. When the Kutteles raced to Vanderbilt University Medical Center to see their dying son, the Army attempts to soothe them by saying it will give Winchell a Commendation Medal for meritorious service as an anti-tank gunner.
Barry Winchell died on July 6.
That same day, Glover was arrested after bloodstained clothing was found in his room. While in jail, he bragged to another prisoner, "I did kill that guy." To another he says, "The one thing I can't stand is faggots or niggers."
When Army investigators interview Fisher about how he discovered Winchell, his story doesn't add up. Finally, on July 8, Fisher admitted to taunting Glover, telling him to attack Winchell, and washing the bat of blood.
Company commander Captain Daniel Rouse restricts Fisher to the post rather than putting him in jail. Over the next 10 days, Fisher tries to obstruct justice by trying to get his close friend, Specialist David Long, to get rid of the bat and destroy other evidence. Fisher is jailed on July 18.
On December 9, 1999, a military tribunal found Calvin Glover guilty of premeditated murder. He was sentenced to life in prison. Justin Fisher won a plea deal: In return for agreeing to testify against Glover, charges of murder and accessory to murder are dropped. Fisher pleads guilty to lying under oath, obstruction of justice, and giving alcohol to a minor. On January 8, 2000, Fisher received 12.5 years in prison.
But many military officials later agreed that the charges against Fisher were reduced because Fisher threatened to accuse a wide range of military officials of permitting an atmosphere of violence, drunkenness, and homophobic hatred to reign uncheck at Fort Campbell.
In February 2000, Major General Robert T. Clark, commanding officer at Fort Campbell, bragged to the "New York Times" that he had cleaned up his base. Why, he had even forced all sergeants and officers to attend a seminaro on how to implement "don't ask, don't tell".
That same week, reporters discovered a drawing of a baseball bat with the words "fag whacker" written on it in a bathroom stall at Fort Campbell. On a wall in a base recreation center were written the words "All fagets in the army will be killed".
Major General Clark refused to take responsibility for the anti-gay climate at Fort Campbell. His promotion to lieutenant general was delayed in October 2002 and May 2003. He was approved for promotion to lieutenant general on December 5, 2003. He retired with a full pension on January 31, 2007.
At the urging of Hillary Clinton, President Bill Clinton declared that the policy of "don't ask, don't tell" was a failure. He then backtracked, and declared he'd keep it in place. Clinton later issued an executive order modifying the Uniform Code of Military Justice to permit evidence of a hate crime to be admitted during the sentencing phase of a trial.
"Don't ask, don't tell" was repealed in December 2010.
On July 6, 2011 -- 11 years to the day after Winchell's death -- a federal appeals court declared the U.S. military's ban on openly gay service members an unconstitutional infringement of civil rights.