Man speaks out after being targeted by robbery suspects through apps used by LGBTQ+ community

Detectives say suspects knew many victims would not report crime because some did not want to be outed

ORLANDO, Fla. – News 6 is hearing from a man who says he was the target of a hate crime. Police said they arrested an 18-year-old man and a 16-year-old boy this week accused of carrying out robberies in some cases through apps used by the LGBTQ+ community.

Detectives said the suspects knew that many of the victims they targeted would not report the crime because some did not want to be outed. Investigators said they also targeted people through transactions.

Henry Pao said he wanted to share his story in hopes of helping others.

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“You don’t think it’s going to happen to you until it does,” Pao said. “In my mind and I was kind of making peace with the fact that I may not live.”

Pao said it was July 5 when his casual meet-up went sour. He said he met a guy at a Millennia area apartment complex who he met from the Sniffies app.

“I did see a gun. He held it in my back,” Pao said.

Police said it was a common scheme by their suspects who wanted quick cash and are responsible they say for at least 11 armed robberies in the Millenia area dating back to May. They even tried to rob a man after advertising a PlayStation 5 on the marketplace app, according to police. In four cases at least, investigators told me these same guys targeted members of the LGBTQ+ community on dating apps like Grindr and Sniffies.

“He kind of said nothing but we’re broke. I’m broke. I’m just taking care of this - and that’s what you get for doing that gay {expletive},” Pao said.

“To hear that is especially hurtful just being a member of the community myself,” Sgt. Amanda White said.

White is the Orlando police department’s lead LGBTQ+ liaison. She wants victims to feel safe reporting crimes.

“We have businesses that participate in the safe place program. It’s a place where they can go report anti-Lgbtq+ plus crime,” White said.

She said she wants everyone to know they have support.

“We’re here for you,” Sgt. White said. “We have a team of about 35 members at OPD that are allies and liaisons.”

About the Author:

Jerry Askin is an Atlanta native who came to News 6 in March 2018 with an extensive background in breaking news.