On Wednesday the New York City Police Department arrested a 24-year-old Queens resident named Leighton Jennings for the January 17 beating of Randy Gener, an openly gay 45-year-old journalist, on Seventh Avenue in Midtown Manhattan. Details of a Facebook profile that appears to belong to Jennings—including his name, date of birth, and physical description—match those provided to Gawker by an NYPD arraignment officer.
Gener, who in the course of the assault cracked his skull on a sidewalk, was later hospitalized and underwent emergency brain surgery at St. Luke’s Hospital. Police later told reporters that the initial conflict between Gener and the suspect, which was captured on nearby surveillance cameras, arose when the journalist accidentally collided with a female who was walking with Jennings, who eventually punched Gener in the face. It’s not yet apparent why the conflict escalated.
Update: DNAInfo reports that city prosecutors believe Gener “escalated the incident by lashing out at a woman who bumped into him on a sidewalk, kicking her in the chest after she threw her purse at his head.” Gener’s sister told DNAInfo, however, that “I have never seen my brother hurt a woman before.” (It remains unclear why the woman threw a purse at Gener in the first place.)
The NYPD initially investigated whether Gener’s beating was motivated by anti-gay bias, but announced last night that detectives concluded it was not. (Jennings’ Facebook profile, under the username STRAIGHT.LACE, demonstrates no anti-gay animus either.) “I would never think something like that of him,” Jennings’ mother, Ellen Wilson, told the Daily NewsDaily News. “He’s very loving. He’s very caring. He’s very mannered.”
According to court records, Jennings is scheduled to appear in New York Criminal Court on March 11.