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Gay sailor murdered at Camp Pendleton

by Shaun Knittel
Seattle Gay News Staff Writer

The body of August Provost, a 29-year-old Gay sailor, was found at Marine Corps Camp Pendleton base in Southern California about 3:30 a.m. June 30. Provost had been standing watch as a sentry at a compound on the base when he was murdered. Initial indications are that Provost was shot and his body suffered burns.

 In a late afternoon press conference, Navy officials said they would conduct a thorough investigation into the murder. However, they said there was no evidence the killing was a hate crime.

“Preliminarily it appears Seaman Provost suffered gunshot wounds, and it appears that someone attempted to destroy evidence by lighting a fire to Seaman Provost’s assigned place of duty,” Navy Captain Matt Brown, a spokesperson for Navy Region Southwest in San Diego, California told SGN during a July 6 phone interview.

According to Brown, investigators have linked a sailor to the crime through both physical evidence and his own statement. He said the sailor has been taken into custody and is cooperating with the investigation. No information has been released about a possible motive and no charges have been filed.

Another sailor initially questioned July 1 as a “person of interest” has been released.

“Based on the information that we’ve been able to come up with there is nothing that suggests this is a hate crime, gang related, or a terrorist act.  But, we will address any possible motivation as part of the investigation as we continue to thoroughly examine the many leads and facts in this case,” Brown told SGN.

Brown said the investigation is a very complex and detailed one and that the Navy Criminal Investigation Service (NCIS) are not ruling anything out, but right now there is no information to suggest Provost was murdered because he was Gay.

Rep. Bob Filner (D-Chula Vista), chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, said July 1 he wanted a complete investigation of circumstances surrounding the murder. He is asking for investigators to determine if the killing was a hate crime.

Gay leaders in San Diego had asked Filner to intervene based on concerns brought to their attention by Provost’s family. According to chairman of the San Diego Human Relations Commission Nicole Murray-Ramirez, Provost’s family said other personnel on the base had harassed the sailor.

“We respect the military, but we want to ensure that there is full disclosure, to see if this was a hate crime,” said Murray-Ramirez. “A member of our community has been killed.”

It has been widely speculated that Provost told members of his family that he had been harassed but could not seek help within the Navy due to “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”, a Department of Defense policy that prevents Gays from serving openly. Brown said that although the public debate over DADT is “an important one” investigators have not been able to link the sailor’s sexuality to the crime. In fact, investigators have called Provosts’ death a random act unrelated to his sexuality.

Brown told SGN,  “There is, unfortunately, a lot of bad information circulating in the press and on the Internet.”

“Provost did suffer gunshot wounds and a fire had been set,” Brown said, but added, “He was not bound, he was not gagged, and he was not mutilated..”

The official said the Navy is working closely with the slain sailors’ family as well as monitoring the impact Provost’s murder has had on his unit. He said Provost was popular with a lot of the sailors and was well liked. His commanding officer said he was a “bright star for the command.”

“Seamen Provost was an outstanding sailor looking forward to a bright future,” said Brown. “He was also a son, a friend and a shipmate, and all of us share grief and this sense of loss. He will most surely be missed by all who loved and cared for him, and by those who served with him.”

The family plans to hold funeral services July 10 in Houston. Brown said Navy representation would be present at the service.

  2009  Seattle Gay News