The death of Ronald Trey Peters, a 28-year-old man shot and killed Tuesday morning in Decatur, has brought a surge of community mourning as friends remember his giving and uplifting personality.
Peters was shot multiple times on his way to the MARTA station before work. Witnesses said the gunman used an anti-gay slur before asking Peters to hand over his bag, the police report said.
DeKalb County police classified the shooting as hate motivated, and the Anti-Defamation League released a statement condemning the crime.
“Unfortunately, this deadly attack is not a rare or isolated event. Rather, this is the latest in a long string of hate-motivated incidents,” Allison Padilla-Goodman, ADL Southeast regional director, said in a press release.
But for Peters’ close friends, coping with the shock of his death takes priority at the moment over examining what prompted the killing.
Brittney Griffin-Gilbert, who roomed with Peters in college, said she hates that he is already “a hashtag.”
“Everyone’s been angry,” Griffin-Gilbert said. “It’s more about Pride Month or the fact that he was gay, and not about him as much. I’m more focused on the fact he’s gone, and I don’t have him anymore.”
Heather Olsen, who was Peters’ friend since high school, said almost all of her memories from the past 15 years involve Peters, and the two of them would joke that they were twins.
“He is the best person I’ve ever met in my entire life,” Olsen said. “Even when he was going through trials in his life, he would carve out time for everyone else.”
Peters, partner ‘were beautiful together’
A GoFundMe page was set up to cover the costs of a memorial service for Peters in Atlanta. As of Sunday afternoon it had raised nearly $4,000, surpassing its $3,000 goal.
Friends have poured into the house Peters shared with his partner, either silently giving each other comfort or sharing memories, Olsen said.
Peters was praised for his creativity and love of performance and music. Olsen connected with him through acting and dancing, and Griffin-Gilbert said they would make up songs and talk musicals.
Olsen said Peters and his partner shared this interest in performance and art, and she described the two as inseparable.
Griffin-Gilbert agreed. “They were beautiful together,” Griffin-Gilbert said. “They really supported each other and all their creative endeavors.”
‘A scary time for queer people’
Sunni Jackson, another friend of Peters’ who works as the art editor of Wussy Magazine, walks dogs in the same neighborhood Peters lived in and said it’s unsettling that he was targeted because of prejudice.
“It’s really a scary time for queer people in general after feeling a lot of safety in the past years,” Jackson said. “I feel like a lot of people felt that Atlanta was more of a safe space for queer people, but that bubble has been burst.”
ADL said the DeKalb shooting shows the need for Georgia to pass hate crime legislation, which would allow greater penalties for certain crimes committed with bias. Four states do not have a hate crime law, and Georgia is one of them.
“It is time to show all Georgians and the nation that we take people’s identities seriously and protect them,” Padilla-Goodman said. “We will not allow bias and bigotry to reign free, and we believe that everyone should be who they are without fear of violence.”
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