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Teachers told to deadname or misgender students in Pennsylvania

U.S. Office of Civil Rights recognizes a school’s policy or practice of refusing to use a transgender student’s pronouns violates Title IX

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Central Bucks West High School (Photo Credit: Central Bucks West High School/Twitter)

DOYLESTOWN, Pa.  Teachers at Central Bucks West High School in Bucks County say they were told by administrators to not use a student’s preferred name or pronoun if it does not match with the information in the school’s database. 

The new policy known as the “Gender Identification Procedure” introduced at a faculty meeting six days into the school year, prohibits staff and faculty from using a student’s chosen gender identity by administrators who also told them they have to follow parents’ or guardians’ wishes if they differ from a student’s.

Philadelphia’s local PBS and NPR outlet WHYY News reported that the new policy has received pushback from teachers including Becky Cartee-Haring, who has taught English at Central Bucks West for 16 years.

“A lot of us are distraught,” she told WHYY adding, “I physically felt sick in that meeting, listening to an administrator basically argue that we were going to protect ourselves by outing children … it’s heart wrenching … It’s just cruel.”

“What the children wanted was completely irrelevant,” said David Klein, who has been teaching social studies at Central Bucks West for 26 years.

Klein said he’s not going to follow the new procedure.

“There’s no way I’m hurting a kid. Hell no. I cannot be complicit in harming children,” Klein said, raising his voice. “And I said this in the meeting … this is the most at-risk marginalized group of students, they need our support more than anyone else. No! Kid says, ‘Call me Tony,’ I’m calling them Tony!”

Being forced to misgender or deadname a student is unacceptable to some of the teachers including Klein at Central Bucks West.

Klein said even if he faces a parent who does not want their child to be called a name that the child prefers, he will continue to prioritize the student.

“My job is to educate your kids, to prepare them for the future, to make them feel safe, period. That’s my calling. Pardon me,” Klein told WHYY choking up. “I’m calling you Tony because you need to feel safe in my classroom. How else are you going to learn? And if they want to fire me, that’s their business.”

Two Legal groups say this new policy may run the risk of putting the school district ‘legal hot water.’ The ACLU of Pennsylvania’s legal director Vic Walczak warned “That right does not exist, at least not in the way that these parents are trying to claim it does,” referring to the impetus behind the new policy by some parents who had pushed for it.

WHYY also reported that Kristina Moon, senior staff attorney at the Education Law Center, pointed out that federal courts have recognized “a student’s right to privacy in their sexual orientation and gender identity, including with respect to their family members.”

“Persistently and purposely misgendering students … can also be considered harassment that violates both federal anti-discrimination laws and the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution,” Walczak added. “It potentially is going to get the school district into legal hot water.”

Moon said the U.S. Office of Civil Rights has also recognized that a school’s policy or practice of refusing to use a transgender student’s pronouns violates Title IX and equal protection rights.

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Pennsylvania

Penn. Moms for Liberty chapter meets at a local diner & dissolves

Lehigh County Moms for Liberty chapter members had begun drifting away after the chapter’s preferred candidate lost badly

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The Starlite Diner at 233 North Route 100 in Allentown, Pennsylvania was the location for the last meeting of the Lehigh County chapter of Moms for Liberty on Feb.6, 2024. (Photo Credit: The Starlite Diner/Facebook)

ALLENTOWN, Penn. – A national group labeled as extremist by the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Hate Watch for its anti-LGBTQ+ and race-centric book banning campaigns, coupled with electing school board members opposed to inclusivity and diversity, especially on trans issues, just lost a local chapter in Allentown, a city in eastern Pennsylvania.

In an interview with The Daily Beast, the chapter founder and head, Janine Vicalvi expressed frustration over the reality of having built the chapter membership to 200, seeing it dwindle to just three who met Tuesday night at The Starlite Diner at 233 North Route 100 in Allentown to formally dissolve the group.

“Between homeschooling and working two jobs, it’s just a lot,” Vicalvi told the Daily Beast. “And I guess there wasn’t as much willingness to do the work that’s required to propel the movement forward.”

The other two at the meeting felt the same and they voted unanimously to dissolve the chapter, she added.

The national organization had been birthed in Central Florida during the battles over shut-downs, mask and social distance mandates during the coronavirus pandemic. The group’s mission later expanded to include battles over LGBTQ+ students, classroom curriculum including so called ‘critical race theory,’ and especially trans issues focused on anti-trans rhetoric leveled at trans girls on sports teams and bathroom bans.

Photo Credit: Janine Vicalvi/Social Media

As the group rapidly expanded nationally and with membership politically aligned with the Republican Party, Moms for Liberty chapters sought and in many cases gained seats on local school boards.

In the case with the Lehigh County Moms for Liberty chapter, the Keystone, a Pennsylvania-based newsroom of local editors and reporters, reported in November that Moms for Liberty backed 130 school-board candidates across the country and won only one-third of their races. 

Lehigh County Moms for Liberty chapter members had begun drifting away after the chapter’s preferred candidate, a woman named Laura Warmkessel running for a seat on the Parkland School Board lost badly.

In other high profile Pennsylvania school board races, Democrats successfully swept those races in the Central Bucks and Pennridge school districts and won control of the boards after they became subject to a never ending stream of controversies.

Vicalvi also told the Daily Beast she shared the organization’s views on book banning.

“I think that most successful political movements are one-issue movements,” she said. “And unfortunately, parental rights is kind of amorphous. Everyone has a different idea of what parental rights looks like.”

That didn’t help morale. At the chapter’s holiday gathering in December, 20 moms showed up.“[But] January was low turnout. February was low turnout,” Vicalvi said.

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Restaurant in Philly gayborhood under fire for transphobic job listing

“There are very few places where LGBTQIA people can feel safe- To have this pop up in Center City is definitely distressing”

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Moriarty’s Restaurant and Bar has been a favorite LGBTQ + neighborhood establishment for over 45 years in Philadelphia's Midtown Village. (Photo Credit: Moriarty’s Restaurant and Bar/Facebook)

PHILADELPHIA, Penn. – A forty-five year old restaurant and bar in Philadelphia’s LGBTQ+ friendly Midtown Village came under fire this week after a job listing for a bartender stated that applicants for the position “must be biologically male.”

Moriarty’s Restaurant and Bar, located at 1116 Walnut at 12th streets had posted a job listing ad to Craigslist January 24 which, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer, advertised an opening for a “Male Bartender (Center-City Philadelphia)” at Moriarty’s. Under qualifications, skills, and requirements, it said: “Must be biologically male.” The ad has since been removed the Inquirer reported.

Celena Morrison-McLean, the Executive Director of the Mayor’s Office of LGBT Affairs told the Inquirer “This is extremely problematic and absolutely transphobic,” adding, “There are laws that say it’s illegal for employers to make decisions based on a person’s race, religion, gender, or sexual identity. This is the kind of thing that fuels a culture of people facing unfair treatment.”

Morrison also told the paper that her office will be reporting the posting to the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations.

“We cannot send a message that this is OK,” she said. “That’s not how we operate in Philadelphia.”

Screenshots of a Craigslist ad for a bartender at Moriarty’s Restaurant.

Councilmember Rue Landau, the first openly LGBTQ+ person to serve on Philadelphia’s City Council, told the Inquirer the job posting was in “clear violation of the Fair Practices Ordinance.” The city ordinance offers protections against unlawful employment practices. Violators can face fines, training, and compensatory damages.

“I am confident it will be an easy, open and shut case,” Landau said, of a potential investigation.

Deja Lynn Alvarez, the deputy director of World Health Care Infrastructures and a trans female blasted the restaurant in a Facebook post. She also told the Inquirer: “My first thought was ‘what the hell are they thinking?’ ” She added: “There are very few places where LGBTQIA people can feel safe and Center City is one of these places. To have this pop up in Center City is definitely distressing.”

Moriarty’s Restaurant and Bar has not responded to requests for comment.

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Pennsylvania

Incoming Penn. school board chair takes oath on banned books

Smith, an incumbent Democrat, who won re-election was sworn in as the new Central Bucks school board president after a vote by the board

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Newly appointed Central Bucks Board of School Directors, Karen Smith, was sworn into office Monday. (Photo by Diana Leygerman/Twitter)

BUCKS, Pa. – Newly appointed Central Bucks Board of School Directors, Karen Smith, was sworn into office Monday, however, unlike other her newly sworn fellow Board members who placed their hands on the more traditional Bible, Smith opted to use a stack of books on LGBTQ+ themes and race that had been banned by the previous board.

Smith, an incumbent Democrat, who won re-election on Nov. 7 was sworn in as the new Central Bucks school board president after a vote by the board. In her remarks she told the audience, “Thank you for your trust in me. I do not take this hand lightly. I feel it as a very heavy responsibility, and you have my word, I will do my best for everyone,” Smith said. “To my supporters, I am so very thankful. To those of you who have challenged me, I will do all I can to hear your voices and concerns.” 

Fox News and conservatives including the former GOP-majority board members labeled one of the books Smith used to be sworn in to office as ‘sexually explicit.’ That book, “Flamer,” written by openly gay author Mike Curato, received a Lambda Literary Award for Children’s and Young Adult Literature in 2021. Curato is a Filipino-American writer and illustrator of children’s books.

Fox characterized ‘Flamer’ as “It tells the story of a character who is bullied at a Boy Scouts summer camp for “acting in a manner considered stereotypical of gay men.” The graphic novel includes characters discussing pornography, erections, masturbation, penis size, and an illustration that depicts naked teenage boys.”

Journalist Chris Ullery reporting for the Bucks County Courier-Times newspaper noted:  Smith, named president of the board, and the other Democrats on the board have long cried foul as the former GOP-majority forged ahead with controversial library policy that critics said was a defacto book ban.

According to the Courier-Times, the book on top of the stack Smith was sworn in on was “Night” by Holocaust survivor and Nobel Peace Prize winning author Elie Wiesel, which was part of a February controversy over books.

The Philadelphia Inquirer, reported that a Central Bucks South High School librarian’s ninth grader sent him a quote from Wiesel’s 1986 Nobel Prize acceptance speech.

“I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented,” said Wiesel.

The librarian included the quote along with a copy of Night in a library display; however, this was shortly after the former school board passed a “neutrality” policy that barred classroom displays advocating politics or social policy unless related to a lesson.

School officials at the direction of the former GOP-majority Board ordered the librarian to remove the display, though that order was rescinded the next day and the posters allowed. The incident went viral on social media generating a flood of criticism for the district, which later apologized and said it regretted the decision to remove the posters.

That neutrality policy, Policy 321, was one of four policies placed on a freeze by Smith and her colleagues when they took office on Monday.

In addition to ‘Flamer,’ the Courier-Times noted, Smith brought along three other titles she was prompted to read when they first appeared on the Woke PA list.

Donna Gephart’s “Lily and Dunkin,” a copy Smith borrowed from Holicong Middle School for Monday, follows the story of the friendship between two eighth graders, a transgender girl and a boy with bipolar disorder.

“Lily and Dunkin” was said to contain “strong sexual content” by Woke PA and some parents who complained to the district, a claim Smith told the Courier-Times gave her pause. 

“I read all the way through the book and there’s nothing. There’s not even a kiss,” Smith said.

The only reason Smith could determine for the “sexual content” warning was the fact that one of its main characters was transgender she said to the paper.

“Just the existence of a transgender student in the book was enough for some folks who want to challenge it, and it’s a beautiful story,” Smith added.

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Moms for Liberty chapter in Philadelphia has sex offender leader

Moms for Liberty chapter faith-based outreach coordinator and a local pastor is also a convicted sex offender

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Screenshot/YouTube CBS 6 Philadelphia

PHILADELPHIA, Penn. – As first reported by The Philadelphia Inquirer, the Moms for Liberty Philadelphia chapter’s faith-based outreach coordinator and a local pastor is also a convicted sex offender stemming from a 2012 felony conviction for aggravated sexual abuse of a 14-year-old boy in Illinois.

According to court records obtained by The Inquirer, Phillip Fisher Jr. was living in Chicago at the time. In a statement to the The Inquirer, Fisher insists that he did nothing wrong, despite pleading guilty to one of 12 counts filed against him after an investigation by the Chicago Police Department.

Fisher, currently the pastor at the Center of Universal Divinity in Olney, and works with Moms for Liberty connecting the Philadelphia chapter with other local faith leaders in a campaign to expand the group’s influence.

The Inquirer also reported that a Moms for Liberty national spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment about Fisher’s criminal history.

Sheila Armstrong, another Republican ward leader who chairs the local Moms for Liberty chapter, said she was also surprised. She said Fisher has been active in community outreach events with local and federal law enforcement, and she expressed concern that children were sometimes part of that.

Armstrong was astounded to hear about Fisher’s criminal pastbecause she had just received from the state Department of Human Services on Thursday a “child abuse history certification” in Fisher’s name so that he could volunteer for an upcoming Christmas Party for an autism nonprofit that she operates.

That certificate said “no records exist” in the state’s database listing Fisher “as a perpetrator of an indicated or founded report of child abuse.”

Moms for Liberty spouts overt hate against the LGBTQ community, regularly targeting trans individuals. The group’s official Twitter page quoted an article in March claiming that The Trevor Project — the world’s largest suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization for LGBTQ youth — “is actively grooming children into a trans identity.” As recently as June 13, Moms for Liberty described the increase of young people identifying as trans as a “transgender contagion” and encourage parents to “fight” it. 

The organization has advocated for the removal of select books with LGBTQ themes, describing the basis for removal as “sexually explicit” content — all while partnering with transphobic publishers to place right-wing propaganda in public school libraries. One chapter even filed a public records request asking for a list of “LGBTQ” book titles from the school library.

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Pennsylvania

Arrest made in the shooting death of gay journalist Josh Kruger

Davis’ family told the paper that a years-long sexual relationship involving drugs factored into the murder

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Robert Davis, 19, of the city's Point Breeze neighborhood was arrested and is being held without bail in the murder of gay journalist. (Photo Credit: Philadelphia Police Department)

PHILADELPHIA, Penn. – The suspect in the murder of openly gay journalist Josh Kruger, 39, was taken into custody Wednesday evening a Philadelphia Police spokesperson confirmed. Robert Davis, 19, of the city’s Point Breeze neighborhood was arrested and is being held without bail.

On Thursday morning, the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office said that they plan to charge Davis with murder, possession of instrument of crime, tampering with evidence and related offenses.

According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, Davis sneaked through the window of his family’s South Philadelphia home Wednesday night after more than two weeks on the run and asked his brothers for help.

Davis’ older brother Jaylin Reason, told the Inquirer his brother appeared to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol and was acting erratically. While trying to calm Davis down, Reason said, they got into a fight. He realized, he said, that the best assistance he could offer his brother was helping him surrender to police.

“I didn’t want him to keep living outside and going around and doing something to put himself in a deeper hole,” he added. Reason told the paper that he calmed Davis down, and then asked his other brother to call the police. Together, they went outside, sat on the steps, and waited for 17th District officers to arrive. Davis surrendered and was taken into custody.

In a series of interviews in early October with the Inquirer, Davis’ family told the paper that a years-long sexual relationship involving drugs factored into the murder. Davis’ mother and older brother are alleging Kruger commenced a sexual and drug relationship with the teenager four years ago when Davis was 15.

Damica Davis told the Inquirer that her son had been deceptive about the relationship with the journalist instead claiming that he was seeing an older white woman he had met online who worked for the ‘government and the messages on his mobile from “Josh” he claimed were because “Josh” was the woman’s gay brother.

Reporting on the arrest, the paper noted that Reason said Davis had said he wanted to tell police everything, including the troubling details that he and Kruger, 39, had been in a sex and drug-fueled relationship since Davis was just 15. But Reason told his brother not to say anything to law enforcement officials until the family got him a lawyer.

Davis was arraigned on the charges Thursday afternoon. A preliminary hearing has been tentatively scheduled for Nov. 13.

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Pennsylvania

Philly LGBTQ center cancels tribute to murdered reporter

“With the allegations that have surfaced about Josh’s murder and the complexities involved, we don’t believe that we can create a safe space”

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Josh Kruger/Instagram

PHILADELPHIA, Penn. – The William Way Community Center announced that it has cancelled an Oct. 29 tribute event for murdered gay journalist Josh Kruger citing allegations of sexual abuse and providing drugs to a minor raised in a Philadelphia Inquirer story earlier this week.

The LGBTQ center in a Facebook post issued a statement on Friday that said:

The William Way Community Center has decided to cancel the Celebration of Life for Josh Kruger scheduled for October 29th, 2023 at the Center. With the allegations that have recently surfaced about Josh’s murder and the complexities involved, we don’t believe that we can create a safe space, either for Josh’s friends and family, or for those who have rightful anger and concerns over allegations of child sexual abuse. As more is revealed about the facts of the case, we hope that together we can figure out the right next steps to acknowledge and remember the many victims in this case– individuals, families and communities.”

As Philadelphia homicide detectives continue the search for 19-year-old Robert Davis, a South Philadelphia resident, Davis’ mother and older brother in a series of interviews with the Philadelphia Inquirer are alleging Kruger, 39, commenced a sexual and drug relationship with the teenager four years ago when Davis was 15.

The Inquirer reported that sources said detectives were investigating explicit photos and messages in Kruger’s phone. The sources did not say whether the content was connected to Davis, but said the images and messages were being analyzed by the Special Victims Unit.

Deputy Police Commissioner Frank Vanore told reporters that the contents of Kruger’s phone are part of the investigation as detectives seek to learn more about why he may have been killed. But critical details of what happened, he said, lie with Davis, who remains at-large.

“I think he could answer a lot of questions if he comes into custody and surrenders,” Vanore said. “It might help us put all this together.”

Police sources say that although Kruger was open about parts of his life, publishing stories about his struggles with being HIV positive, homeless, and his own addition struggles, he was still concealing parts of his life, and that also meth was found in his bedroom as police searched his home for clues to his murder.

Homicide detectives working the case even as they continue to search for Davis, are working to figure out how it all fits together in what has turned out to a very convoluted and complicated story.

“We’re looking at everything as part of the case,” Deputy Commissioner Vanore said.

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Pennsylvania

Family of man who shot journalist claims drugs & sex were a factor

Davis’ mother & older brother are alleging Kruger commenced a sexual and drug relationship with the teenager four years ago when Davis was 15

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Josh Kruger/Twitter

PHILADELPHIA, Penn. – In a series of recent interviews with the Philadelphia Inquirer, the family of the man police are seeking to arrest for the shooting of openly gay journalist Josh Kruger, told the paper that a years-long sexual relationship involving drugs factored into the murder.

As Philadelphia homicide detectives continue the search for 19-year-old Robert Davis, a South Philadelphia resident, Davis’ mother and older brother are alleging Kruger, 39, commenced a sexual and drug relationship with the teenager four years ago when Davis was 15.

Damica Davis told the Inquirer that her son had been deceptive about the relationship with the journalist instead claiming that he was seeing an older white woman he had met online who worked for the ‘government and the messages on his mobile from “Josh” he claimed were because “Josh” was the woman’s gay brother.

More alarming was the escalation of the teen’s drug use.

The Inquirer reported:

Damica Davis and her older son Jaylin Reason said in an interview that Davis faced mental health issues from a young age. He struggled to control his anger in school, his mother said, partially because of the absence of his biological father in his life, and often got into fights. When he was about 15, she said, his troubles intensified after he started sneaking out in the middle of the night and coming home high on drugs.

Davis sometimes returned home with expensive gifts, such as designer belts and Gucci pants, they said, and would tell his family the woman bought them for him. He’d sometimes stay out until early morning, they said, and return under the influence of drugs. They found needles, pills, and other drug paraphernalia in his pockets, and believe he became addicted to meth.

Damica Davis said that she tried to get help for her son but that resources were limited. He never stayed long at any rehabilitation facilities, she said, and other institutions “treated him like a prisoner.”

According to Damica Davis, in the call with her son this past Friday just hours after Philadelphia police burst into her South Philadelphia home looking for him, Davis admitted to her and his brother that he had been seeing Kruger all along.

Deputy Police Commissioner Frank Vanore told reporters that the contents of Kruger’s phone are part of the investigation as detectives seek to learn more about why he may have been killed. But critical details of what happened, he said, lie with Davis, who remains at-large.

“I think he could answer a lot of questions if he comes into custody and surrenders,” Vanore said. “It might help us put all this together.”

Damica Davis and her older son Jaylin Reason told the Inquirer that Davis told them Kruger was threatening to post sexually explicit videos of him online before, police say, Davis shot Kruger.

Police sources say that although Kruger was open about parts of his life, publishing stories about his struggles with being HIV positive, homeless, and his own addition struggles, he was still concealing parts of his life, and that also meth was found in his bedroom as police searched his home for clues to his murder.

Homicide detectives working the case even as they continue to search for Davis, are working to figure out how it all fits together in what has turned out to a very convoluted and complicated story.

“We’re looking at everything as part of the case,” Deputy Commissioner Vanore said.

Read the entire Philadelphia Inquirer story here: [Link]

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Philadelphia police seek to arrest man in murder of gay journalist

An arrest warrant has been issued for 19-year-old Robert Davis in the shooting death of journalist Josh Kruger this past Monday

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An arrest warrant has been issued for 19-year-old South Philadelphia resident Robert Davis in the shooting death of journalist Josh Kruger. (Screenshot/YouTube NBC News)

PHILADELPHIA, Penn. – Lt. Hamilton Marshmond of the Philadelphia police Homicide Unit told reporters Friday that an arrest warrant has been issued for a 19-year-old man he said detectives believe was responsible for the shooting death of a gay journalist on Monday.

Marshmond stated that police are searching for South Philadelphia resident Robert Davis, who was acquaintance of 39-year-old Josh Kruger, who was found lying in the street outside his Point Breeze home suffering from seven gunshot wounds. Responding officers rushed Kruger to a nearby hospital where he succumbed to his injuries.

Marshmond told reporters Kruger had been trying to help Davis, who was facing various troubles including homelessness. “He was just trying to help him get through life,” Marshmond said.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reported Marshmond told reporters the motive for the killing remains under investigation, and it’s unclear how Davis got into Kruger’s home, which showed no signs of forced entry. He said video of Davis near the area at the time of the shooting, and tips from Kruger’s friends and family about their earlier interactions led investigators to him.

Davis’ last known address was on the 1600 block of South Ringgold Street, police said, just a few blocks from Kruger’s home on the 2300 block of Watkins Street.

Marshmond said Davis was known to police and had been arrested before, but declined to elaborate on officers’ earlier interactions with him. Court records show that Davis was arrested in August and charged with criminal trespassing and mischief, but the District Attorney’s Office withdrew the charges at a preliminary hearing the following month.

He warned that Davis “is considered armed and dangerous,” and that anyone who sees him should not approach him but instead call 911. Those who have information that could lead police to him are asked to call (215) 686-TIPS (8477).

There is a $20,000 reward for information that results in his apprehension and arrest.

A celebration of life and tribute to Kruger has been scheduled for the afternoon of Oct. 29, at William Way LGBT Community Center.

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Philadelphia Police ID person of interest in murder of gay journalist

Philadelphia homicide investigators have identified a person of interest in the death of Josh Kruger, a journalist and advocate

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Josh Kruger was shot in his home early Monday morning seven times & collapsed in the street after seeking help. (Photo Credit: Josh Kruger/Facebook)

PHILADELPHIA, Penn. – The Philadelphia Inquirer is reporting that investigators have said that they have a person of interest in the murder of a gay journalist earlier this week but declined to release a name.

According to the Inquirer Philadelphia homicide investigators have identified a person of interest in the death of Josh Kruger, a journalist and advocate who was shot inside his home Monday.

Police are searching for a man — whom they declined to identify — who they believe may have information on what happened to Kruger, said Deputy Police Commissioner Frank Vanore. An arrest warrant has not been issued, he said, but detectives want to bring the man into custody and ask him some questions.

Vanore said investigators have not identified a motive for the killing, but they believe the shooter was someone Kruger knew. “We don’t want to close any doors,” he told the Inquirer. “We’re working hard to try and fortify that person of interest.”

According to Officer Shawn Ritchie, a spokesperson for the Philadelphia Police Department, 39-year-old Kruger was shot in his Point Breeze neighborhood home in the 2300 block of Watkins Street in South Philadelphia early Monday morning at about 1:30 a.m.. He collapsed in the street after seeking help and was transported to Penn Presbyterian Hospital where he was pronounced dead at 2:13 a.m.

The Inquirer also reported that multiple law enforcement sources indicated that preliminary evidence and interviews indicate the killing may have been domestic in nature, or drug-related. The sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing investigation, said the man police are searching for had previously broken into Kruger’s home and was struggling with drug addiction.

The local PBS/NPR affiliate, WHYY reported Kruger had written extensively with bylines in multiple publications, including The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia Magazine, The Philadelphia Citizen, WHYY, and Billy Penn.

CBS News reported that Kruger overcame homelessness and addiction to work for five years in city government, handling Mayor Jim Kenney’s social media and serving as the communications director for the city’s Office of Homeless Services.

He left city government in 2021 to return to journalism, according to his website.

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Openly gay journalist shot dead at home in Philadelphia

Jim Kenney, the Mayor of Philadelphia, said in a statement that he is “shocked and saddened” by Kruger’s death

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Josh Kruger, shown here with his cat named Mason, was shot seven times & collapsed in the street after seeking help. He was transported to Penn Presbyterian Hospital where he was pronounced dead. (Photo Credit: Josh Kruger/Facebook)

PHILADELPHIA, Penn. – An openly gay journalist was shot to death in his Point Breeze neighborhood home in the 2300 block of Watkins Street in South Philadelphia early Monday morning.

According to Officer Shawn Ritchie, a spokesperson for the Philadelphia Police Department, 39-year-old Josh Kruger was shot at about 1:30 a.m. and collapsed in the street after seeking help. Kruger was transported to Penn Presbyterian Hospital where he was pronounced dead at 2:13 a.m.

Police said that Kruger was shot seven times throughout the chest and abdomen and that no weapons were recovered nor have any arrests been made. Homicide investigators noted that there was no sign of forced entry and the motive remains unclear.

Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner said in a statement:

“Josh Kruger lifted up the most vulnerable and stigmatized people in our communities — particularly unhoused people living with addiction. As an openly queer writer who wrote about his own journey surviving substance use disorder and homelessness, it was encouraging to see Josh join the Kenney administration as a spokesperson for the Office of Homeless Services.

Josh deserved to write the ending of his personal story. As with all homicides, we will be in close contact with the Philadelphia Police as they work to identify the person or persons responsible so that they can be held to account in a court of law. I extend my deepest condolences to Josh’s loved ones and to all those mourning this loss.”

The local PBS/NPR affiliate, WHYY reported Kruger had written extensively with bylines in multiple publications, including The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia Magazine, The Philadelphia Citizen, WHYY, and Billy Penn.

CBS News reported that Kruger overcame homelessness and addiction to work for five years in city government, handling Mayor Jim Kenney’s social media and serving as the communications director for the city’s Office of Homeless Services.

He left city government in 2021 to return to journalism, according to his website.

“He was more than just a journalist,” Kendall Stephens, who was a friend and neighbor of Kruger’s told CBS News. “He was more than just a community member. He was somebody that fought that great fight so many of us are not able to fight that fight because we’re too busy sheltered in our own homes wondering if someone is going to knock down our doors and kill us the same way they killed him. The same way they tried to kill me. And we’re tired of it.”   

Jim Kenney, the Mayor of Philadelphia, said in a statement that he is “shocked and saddened” by Kruger’s death.

“He cared deeply about our city and its residents, which was evident in his public service and writing. Our administration was fortunate to call him a colleague, and our prayers are with everyone who knew him.”

The District Attorney’s LGBTQ+ Advisory Committee issued the following statement:

“Many of us knew Josh Kruger as a comrade who never stopped advocating for queer Philadelphians living on the margins of society. His struggles mirrored so many of ours — from community rejection, to homelessness, to addiction, to living with HIV, to poverty — and his recovery, survival, and successes showed what’s possible when politicians and elected leaders reject bigotry and work affirmatively to uplift all people. Even while Josh worked for the Mayor, he never stopped speaking out against police violence, politicized attacks on trans and queer people, or the societal discarding of homeless and addicted Philadelphians.

“We are devastated that Josh’s life was ended so violently. We urge anyone who has information that could lead to an arrest and prosecution for Josh’s murder to contact the Philadelphia Police or the DA’s Office directly. LGBTQ+ Philadelphians experience violence of all kinds every day; few people used their platforms to remind powerful people in government of that reality as effectively as Josh Kruger did. Josh and the communities he advocated for every day of his life deserve nothing less than justice and accountability for this outrageous crime.”

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