Cleveland--Shots rang out and another young gay man was killed on March 1.
Deonte Conley, 23, of East Cleveland, was shot in a driveway at 3753 Martin Luther King Drive on Cleveland’s east side just before 10 pm. At 10:17 pm, he was pronounced dead on arrival at MetroHealth Medical Center.
Conley was very active in Cleveland’s African American LGBT community. He performed around the city and volunteering his time to various organizations.
Adam Conley, formerly of BlackOut Unlimited and of no relation to Deonte, first met him around two years ago.
As he recounted the various events for BlackOut and the Black, Gay and Proud celebration that Deonte Conley helped out with, he said, “All those memories we had together, and that’s all they are now: memories.”
The younger Conley’s funeral was held on March 11.
“It hurt my heart to see him in that casket,” he said.
Tracy Jones, associate executive director of the AIDS Taskforce of Greater Cleveland, described Deonte Conley as a “wonderful spirit” who “touched a lot of the clients’ lives” during his tenure as a volunteer in the food pantry and as receptionist for the Taskforce.
L. Michael Gipson, director of education for the Taskforce and former director of its Beyond Identities Community Center, noted that Conley attended the youth center for about half a year before aging out, and he helped with the facility and volunteered to lead workshops.
Conley also performed at drag shows under the name Unique, gracing the stage at Black, Gay and Proud, the Grid, Four Seasons and Muggs.
Isis Tiffany Soul, one of the area’s most notable performers and community activists, expressed curiosity and sadness when asked about Conley, asking why his death was being covered when others go unreported in the news.
She pointed out that assaults on gay youth are not infrequent.
Conley’s death was the second publicized murder of a young LGBT person in Cleveland in three and a half months.
On November 14, Donathyn Rodgers, also known as Jayala, was shot and killed in front of an abandoned gas station on the west side of Cleveland, after being chased by his assailants.
Rodgers had been arrested for prostitution before, but police did not know if it played a role in his murder. Rodgers was in drag when he was killed.
While rumors started spreading almost immediately that Conley was in drag when he was killed, police spokesperson Lt. Thomas Stacho denied that it was the case, insisting that Conley was dressed as a man when he was shot.
Police had no other information to share about Conley’s murder, and the investigation is ongoing.