(AP) A North Carolina man is accused of beating a veteran he met at a gay bar, police said. The victim had most of both arms amputated after he was severely burned when the hotel room they were in caught fire, his longtime partner said.
Garry Joseph Gupton, 26, a Greensboro city employee, has been charged with aggravated assault with intent to kill in connection with the early Sunday attack. Police spokeswoman Susan Danielsen said there is no indication the incident was motivated by the sexuality of the victim, Stephen Patrick White, 46.
“We believe this was a consensual encounter between the two of them, and at some point Mr. Gupton began acting incredibly irrational,” Danielsen said.
White’s longtime partner, Alex Teal, told The Associated Press he and White had been dating since 2009 and still lived together, but they “decided to take a break” this summer. On Sunday, Teal said, they agreed to try again starting the next day.
“So that night was his last night of freedom,” Teal said.
Robert Porter, a bartender at Chemistry, said Gupton told him he’d been experimenting with men since he was 19, and it had taken about a month and a half to work up the courage to enter the bar.
White and Gupton left together in a cab around closing time, bartender Jim Olive said.
“I walked them towards the door and I asked Garry, I said, ‘So, are you going to hang with my friend Steve tonight?'” Olive said. “And he said, ‘Yes.’ And I said, ‘Well, I like Steve a lot. Be nice to him.'”
Around 4:30 a.m. an employee at the Greensboro hotel called 911 to report a man screaming. Around the same time, the fire alarm was tripped.
Police arrested Gupton and evacuated the hotel. Firefighters found White unconscious and badly burned in a fourth-floor room.
Public Defender Wayne T. Baucino said he met Gupton for the first time Friday. He declined to comment on the case, except to say that he expected it to go to a grand jury.
“These are hard cases to deal with,” he said. Gupton has not entered a plea and is being held in lieu of $250,000 bond. His next court appearance is Dec. 10.
Guilford County Assistant District Attorney Howard Newman said it appeared White was struck with a telephone, television and another small piece of furniture. He said he expected to file arson charges, as the fire appeared to be intentionally set.
White remained in critical condition Friday, and two local bars planned to hold fundraisers Saturday to help cover his treatment.
Teal said White served in the Army during the late 1980s, then spent several years with U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the Federal Air Marshal Service. He worked as a security contractor in Iraq in 2005 when he suffered severe injuries in a blast, Teal said.
“If you tell Stephen he cannot do something, he’ll tell you he can,” he said. “He has this mentality from the military. He goes for it. He goes to the wall. … In every sense of the word, he’s a fighter.”