LGBT-owned gym and ‘safe haven for queer youth’ bombed in suspected hate crime

With its bright Pride flag flying at its entrance, a New Jersey gym was considered by many a queer safe space. That is, until it was targeted in a bombing. (Stock photograph via Elements Envato)

A New Jersey man was charged for detonating an explosive device at a lesbian-owned gym long considered by locals as a “safe haven” for LGBT+ people.

Dwayne A Vandergrift Jr, 35, was charged by federal authorities on September 4 for not only causing devastating damage to the Gloucester City gym, but for unlawful possession of two destructive devices and unlawful possession of a short-barrelled rifle, according to a press release from the US Attorney’s Office for New Jersey.

At around 4am on August 26, Vandergrift tacked the explosive device on the front door of GCity Crossfit Gym, according to surveillance footage.

Sprinting off, the resulting explosion shattered the glass and desolated the door.

An LGBT+ Pride flag decorating it on lithely hanging on the hinges, prompting the gym’s owners as well as the local community to suspect the incident was a hate crime.

LGBT+ gym allegedly bombed by man who searched how to produce makeshift explosives only days before the attack.

Owned by Jenai Gonzales and her wife Ann Panarello, the gym is a “known safe-haven in the area for LGBT+ youth” and many of its personal trainers and staffers are queer, athletic apparel Lifting Culture owner Steven Vitale wrote on his website.

As much as the gym’s owners suspect the attack was motivated by queerphobia, the Attorney’s Office does not specify a motive.

Federal and local law enforcement officers combed Vandergrift’s home on 28 August, finding inside bomb-making materials as well as several weapons, tactical vests, ammunition and around 85 marijuana plants.

Investigators tapped his home computer to find that he had in recent days searched for ways to jerry-rig explosives, including pipe and pressure cooker bombs. He was arrested later that day and is presently in custody.

Vandergrift faces a total prison term of at 20 years as well as a maximum fine of $250,000.

Though the attack left the local LGBT+ community shaken, Vitale wrote: “G-City Crossfit had, and will continue to have, a large gay Pride flag displayed prominently in their front door.”