For the past year Spencer Pride has been raising extra attention to bias crimes against LGBTQ+ people, especially in rural areas. This week, a local incident came to an official close in the Owen County Courthouse.
Two of our Spencer Pride leaders (president Jonathan Balash & commUnity center director Jacob Balash) were the victims of a crime when their home was vandalized last Spring. Perpetrators visited their home on multiple nights, attempting to pull the entire flagpole down with their vehicle. The crime occurred just a couple of months before the (weak) hate crimes bill passed in the Indiana General Assembly.
Although they did not succeed in bringing the flagpole down, adult Zachary Crites & a minor (a juvenile son of a Monroe County Deputy) did cut down the LGBTQ+ pride flag & USA flag from the pole. The men left behind the USA flag on the ground, but managed to steal the LGBTQ+ pride flag when they fled the property (it should be noted that they also grabbed the bumper of their truck as well, which had fallen off in the failed attempted to pull the pole down).
When interviewed about the incident by the Owen County Sheriff’s Department, the individuals admitted that they targeted the home because Jonathan & Jacob are “Big Time Queers,” which is a title that the couple have come to wear with pride over the past year. We’ve also adopted the phrase as well, selling out of t-shirts & other merchandise with the phrase on it. (By the way, we do have more t-shirts in stock if you are looking to show your support.) The phrase adorned Spencer Pride’s banner in the NYC Pride March in June.
The minor had plead guilty last fall & accepted a plea deal with the Owen County Prosecutors office. On Tuesday this week, Zachary Crites followed a similar path by pleading guilty to a deal as well. As a part of that plea, the crime will be a permanent part of Crites’ criminal record. He will also serve probation & be required to pay restitution & do community service. It should be noted that, in addition to the vandalism on Jonathan & Jacob’s property, Crites & the minor had also committed theft at another Owen County property (including firearms) one of of the nights that they visited the gay couple’s home.
In response to the incident, Spencer Pride has been distributing free LGBTQ+ pride flags over the past year. Individuals have been coming to the Spencer Pride commUnity center to get flags & have their photos taken for our “Proud Supporters” wall. Although one Pride flag was stolen by the criminals last Spring, our organization has donated hundreds since then. We can definitely claim that as a result of this act of ignorance, we’ve added much more color to our beautiful Owen County.
Individuals who wish to participate in our “Proud Supporters” wall can visit the Spencer Pride commUnity center during our regular hours Wednesday through Sunday from 10 AM until 7 PM.
We are happy to see this “Big Time” ending to what started as a sad story of hate.