HIGHLAND PARK — Robert Anthony Brown was 24 when he was shot and killed after leaving a gay bar, The Bon Mot, near Figueroa Street and Avenue 41 in November 1983. His killing and that of another gay may, Richard Lee, who was shot two years earlier near Figueroa and Avenue 43, prompted friends and neighbors who were not satisfied with the LAPD’s response to form the Uptown Gay and Lesbian Alliance. The group lives on, and now there’s a proposal to rename the intersection of Figueroa and Avenue 41 in honor of Brown and the alliance.
A City Council motion presented by Councilman Gil Cedillo includes background on the 1983 and the community’s response:
“Bobby was first attacked by two men thought to be members of a local gang. During the first attack, witnesses described Bobby as being on the ground with a shotgun pointed at his mouth. These witnesses, Tom Walters and his lover David, were shot at when they walked onto Avenue 41. Bobby escaped, robbed of his money, jewelry and keys. Tom and his lover had to crawl back into the bar to avoid being shot. The police were called, who arrived, took the report, and, according to witnesses, made no investigation. Witnesses also reported the police as questioning whether or not the victims had come out of “that fag bar.” Bobby stayed in the bar to phone his lover, to inform him what had occurred, and to calm down. He was offered a ride by David Maxwell. Shortly after midnight, the two men left the bar. When they turned onto Avenue 41, they were met by one of the gang members, who opened fire. Bobby was shot twice, once in the chest and once in the thigh. He was pronounced dead at the scene. David was wounded in the leg and is in stable condition at County USC Medical Center.”
Gus DiClario, a local real estate agent and friend of Brown, helped organize a meeting with the LAPD over the murder investigation. While Brown’s killer or killers were never found, that meeting would eventually lead to the creation of Uptown Gay and Lesbian Alliance, a nonprofit based in Northeast L.A.
If Cedillo’s motion is approved by the full council, signs reading “Bobby Brown Uptown Gay and Lesbian Alliance Square” will be installed at the intersection.
Correction: A previous version of this story said that Brown’s murder was unsolved based on information provided by the council office and the Uptown Gay and Lesbian Alliance. However, the LAPD said that Thomas Adam Cabuto was arrested in April 1984 in connection with the murder, said Capt. Arturo Sandoval of the LAPD Northeast Division. Cabuto was granted parole in November 2017. The LAPD has asked the parole board to reverse its decision, Sandoval said.
Sandoval also defended the department’s handling of the case in light of allegations at the time that the police were indifferent to the killing of a gay man.
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