Little did Marquez Tolbert and Anthony Gooden, a young gay Atlanta couple, know that just hours after a hard day at work that they would end up in a hospital undergoing treatment for severe burns. The couple suffered second and third-degree burns along their backs, arms, and necks.
Tolbert, 21, was in the hospital for 10 days as he underwent surgery that harvested skin on his thigh to replace skin on his back. Gooden just got out of the hospital on Friday. Both Tolbert and Gooden were treated at the Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta, well known for its trauma unit all around the country.
According to Project Q Atlanta, the incident occurred on February 12.
Tolbert and Gooden were asleep at the home of Gooden’s mother in College Park, Georgia, when Gooden’s mother’s boyfriend, Martin Blackwell, 48, walked in on them as they slept on a mattress in the living room. Gooden subsequently poured scalding hot water all over the two. He then proceeded to yank Tolbert up out of the bed.
“Martin pulled me up and said, ‘Get out of my house with all that gay. I couldn’t stop screaming.”
Blackwell did not live at the apartment.
WSB-TV was able to obtain a police report that revealed the motive for the attack. Blackwell was repulsed by the men’s relationship and he showed no remorse for what he had done.
“They’ll be all right. It was just a little hot water on them.”
Tolbert says that he has ongoing pain from his injuries. It is excruciating and unrelenting, and he is unable to sleep. He says that he feels the burning and stinging everywhere.
Blackwell has been arrested and is being detained in the Fulton County Jail. He is being charged with two counts of aggravated battery. He did not make bond due to the efforts of an Atlanta Police Department LGBT liaison in the case.
Tolbert and Gooden work at a nearby warehouse and frequently slept at Gooden’s mother’s apartment when they ended their shift at 7 a.m. The two had been dating for approximately six weeks when the incident occurred.
Marquez Tolbert told Project Q Atlanta that the attack took him completely by surprise as both he and Gooden seemed to get along well with Blackwell. Tolbert had even driven him on an errand a few days prior.
“He seemed like a normal person. I had no idea anything like this would happen at all. This caught me completely by surprise. I didn’t know what was going on and I couldn’t believe the pain I was feeling at the time.”
Tolbert has been unable to return to work as of yet due to the nature of his injuries, and a friend has set up a Go Fund Me account to assist with expenses related to his medical bills, prescription drugs, and burn dressings. Proceeds will also be used to assist with rent and utilities. Organizers hope to raise $30,000 through the campaign. Thus far, a little over $1200 has been raised. For additional information on Marquez’s Burn Recovery Fund, follow this link.
Marquez is slowly recovering from his injuries and hopes to get back to work soon. The incident has also caused him to broaden his perspective about what he wants to do with his future. He is putting a plan together to go back to school when he is fully recovered and back on his feet and hopes to pursue a future career in the medical field and also do some public speaking to encourage those who have been in similar situations.
Georgia does not currently have a hate crime statute; however, the police department’s LGBT liaison has stated that federal hate crime charges are a possibility in the case, and this possibility will be explored in the case’s upcoming hearing.
[Image via Shutterstock]