Dallas Men Indicted for Hate Crimes for Targeting Gay Men on Grindr
Two Dallas men were charged with hate crimes today for using the Grindr app to lure men to an apartment complex, where the men were assaulted, taunted and robbed, announced U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas Erin Nealy Cox.
A federal grand jury indicted Daniel Jenkins, 19, and Michael Atkinson, 24, for conspiracy to commit hate crimes, kidnapping, and carjacking. Mr. Jenkins was also charged with brandishing a firearm during a crime of violence.
According to the 15-count indictment – which supersedes an indictment filed under seal in August 2018 – members of the conspiracy set up fake profiles on Grindr, a social media dating platform for GBTQ men, to lure gay men to an apartment complex in Pleasant Grove, Texas in order to commit violent crimes against them including assaults, kidnapping, and carjacking. For approximately one week in December 2017, the conspirators lured at least nine victims, ages 19 to 57, to Solana Ridge Apartments.
On December 6, 2017, members of the conspiracy used Grindr to lure John Doe 8 to the Solana Ridge Apartments in Pleasant Grove. Jenkins and another unidentified man held John Doe 8 at gunpoint in a vacant apartment. Jenkins and his coconspirator took John Doe 8’s cellular phone and other property. The next day, John Doe 9 was contacted through Grindr and lured to the Solano Ridge Apartments where he was carjacked at gunpoint and forced to drive to local ATMs in order to withdraw cash.
On December 7, 2017, members of the conspiracy used Grindr to lure John Doe 1 to the Solano Ridge Apartments. He was robbed at gunpoint, carjacked and forced to drive his attackers to local ATMs to withdraw cash. On December 8, 2017, members of the conspiracy used Grindr to lure John Doe 2 to the Solana Ridge Apartments. A member of the conspiracy held John Doe 2 at gunpoint and demanded his property. A member of the conspiracy hit John Doe 2 in the head with an object.
On December 11, 2017, the conspirators used Grindr to lure another 4 men to the Solano Ridge Apartments. Jenkins met victims at their cars and invited them inside of Apartment # 186. According to the indictment, Atkinson brought a handgun to Apartment # 186. According to the indictment, Jenkins pointed a handgun toward at least one victim, physically assaulted at least two others and called the victims homophobic slurs. At least one victim was sexually assaulted and at least one victim was smeared with human feces.
“Criminals are using apps like Grindr to single out victims based on their sexual orientation,” said U.S. Attorney Nealy Cox. “My office is committed to rooting out these despicable crimes motivated by hate.”
“As the lead agency for the investigation of federal hate crime violations, the FBI is committed to aggressively identifying and pursuing those using online apps, such as Grindr, to commit acts of violence or intimidation against an individual or community based on their protected class status,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge of the Dallas Office Eric Jackson.
An indictment is merely an accusation, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty. If convicted, both defendants face a maximum statutory penalty of life in prison for the hate crime and kidnapping charges, 15 years for the carjacking changes, five years for the conspiracy charge, and a fine of up to $250,000 with respect to each charge. Jenkins also faces a mandatory minimum of at least seven years in prison plus a $250,000 fine for each firearms charge.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Dallas Field Office conducted the federal investigation; a separate criminal investigation is being conducted by the Dallas Police Department. Assistant U.S. Attorney Nicole Dana of the Northern District of Texas and Trial Attorneys Rose Gibson and Kathryn Gilbert of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division are prosecuting the case.
This is not the first hate crime case involving the use of the Grindr app; four men pleaded guilty to hate crimes in the Eastern District of Texas in 2018. All four men were sentenced to at least a decade in prison after admitting they used Grindr to arrange a meet-up at a victim’s home, where they physically assaulted, ridiculed, and robbed him.