EDMOND, Okla. — An Oklahoma gay man says he awoke in the early morning hours on July 21 to the noise two men dressed in black and wearing face masks vandalizing his car — he said one of the suspects threw something in his vehicle that caused an explosion and fire, while the man other fled.
Edmond, Okla. resident Jon Ferguson said that the vandals had broken out the window of his car before igniting the vehicle on fire.
“The car just blew up, then he [the other masked man] took off too. In the instant I smelled gas, but I didn’t know if it was the flames that hit me or what it was,” he said.
“Right when that happened, the flames hit me; I ripped my shirt off, ran in my house and jumped in the shower.”
Ferguson said he then called 911.
Ferguson described that when the car suddenly burst into flames and the car alarm went off, the loud noise caused his roommates to come running to help. One tried to douse the fire with a hose, he said, because the gas meter was just 10 feet from the car.
Ferguson was taken to the emergency room to be treated for his injuries, and said it was only then that he found out that the vandals had scrawled the word “fag” across the trunk of his car.
“One fire inspector asked me if there was any graffiti on my car [before the incident]. One Fire Inspector told me then the word fag had been written on the back of it.”
Ferguson said he just lost it at that point, and that he knew he had been targeted due to his sexual orientation.
“Nobody has a right to judge me. Nobody is justified to judge somebody for who they lay in bed with. It’s almost not worth being proud of who you are and trying to show you’re gay because stuff like this really does happen.
I’ve always seen it on the news that kids are dying and stuff because they’re being bullied and you understand why kids don’t come out of the closet.”
Ferguson said he has been “out” for six years and said that night, for the first time, he felt like he needed to hide. He went from the hospital to his parents’ house in the country to stay the night just to feel “safe.”
“I wasn’t flaunting it or anything. I’m trying to be me, but it’s almost not worth it. It’s like I need to fake being happy with a female just to where the world accepts me and I don’t want to do that.”
Ferguson suffered first and second degree burns on 36 percent of his body, mostly on his face, some on his arms and chest. The fire also singed his shirt onto his chest.
Article continues belowThe Oklahoma City fire department is investigating the fire and are classifying the incident as an act of arson. Chief Homer Jones told KWTV in Oklahoma City that investigators plan to interview Ferguson to obtain additional information and details, but right now there are no suspects.
Jones said if the incident is determined to be a hate crime, the Oklahoma City fire and police Departments would continue to conduct the investigation.
“When anyone is victimized in this way, it is a tragedy. When it is compounded by hate based only on sexual orientation, it victimizes an entire community,” said Scott Hamilton, Executive Director of the Cimarron Alliance, and Oklahoma LGBT advocacy organization.
“This horrific incident is a sad and vivid reminder that Oklahoma City’s LGBT community is still not fully accepted,” Hamilton said, in a statement to The Gayly.