|A jury convicted one of Ryan Skipper’s two killers of first-degree murder just hours ago. It’s all over the evening news. My how times change. Today was the second of two trials, both resulting in a life sentence for each of Ryan’s killers. Three young Florida men whose lives are ended in one way or another.
There is no joy, no celebration, no closure, but there was justice and that’s something.
It’s been nearly two years and eight months since Ryan was stabbed 19 times and left for dead on the side of a Wahneta dirt road in Polk County. I’ve grown close to his family since then. So much so, I sometimes forget that I’ve never met Ryan. I feel like I know him as well as I know his friends and family members. Maybe that just goes to show how much we carry our loved ones with us.
These are such amazing people.
|Ryan’s friends reached out to Equality Florida in the days and weeks after his murder because they saw an injustice and refused to sit idly by while the media-seeking Polk County Sheriff recklessly blamed Ryan, in part, for his own death and soiled the one thing he had left – his reputation. Accusations were stated as facts - it didn’t matter that the killers were the only source and they would say anything to minimize their atrocity.
In the shadow of those unfounded accusations, most of the media toed the line and stayed far away from Ryan’s story. I doubt we would even know the name “Matthew Shepard” if Grady Judd had been Sheriff in Laramie, WY.
In the following days, Equality Florida worked with dozens of people who never met Ryan but were moved by his story and the love of his friends and family. Within two weeks we had organized vigils in 14 cities to memorialize Ryan and to call attention to the hate violence that took his young life. Over 1,000 people came out to say, “No more.” No more senseless killings, no more gay-bashings, no more treating LGBT people as less than equal, and no more silence in the face of such violent hate crimes.
Because of Ryan’s friends and their dedication to preserving his reputation, the Sheriff’s office was forced to retract those careless statements.