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Roanoke community marks 20-year anniversary of Backstreet Cafe shooting

Six other people were also injured when Ronald Gay opened fire on Sept. 22, 2000

ROANOKE, Va – Twenty years later, the Roanoke community is remembering the life of a man killed at the Backstreet Cafe.

Six other people were also injured when Ronald Gay opened fire on Sept. 22, 2000.

Larry Smith will always remember his dear friend, Danny Overstreet, as a funny and kind person.

“Danny had a strong personality and you really instantly liked him,” Smith said.

Overstreet was killed when Gay entered Backstreet Cafe, a Roanoke gay bar, and opened fire. Although Smith was out of town on business, he said he will never forget that phone call.

“Of all the people shot, the three males, I was good friends with all of them,” Smith said.

In the two decades that have passed, people from all over have come by the building to pay tribute to those hurt and the life lost that night.

Over the years, the building where Backstreet Cafe once was on Salem Avenue has changed ownership; however, advocates said even though the cafe is no longer there, the community could never forget that dark night 20 years ago.

“The concerns for our safety are still very really especially in today’s political climate,” said Facilities Director for Roanoke Diversity Center Bernard Alvarez, which advocates for LGBT members in the Roanoke community.

It also houses the iconic pride flag that once flew in the cafe.

“For people that are trying to come to grips with their identity to be in a place where they feel that they may have been hunted at one time, let’s say the one event was a case of that, it’s something that people are still coming to grips with,” Alvarez said.

Ronald Gay received multiple life sentences for his crimes.


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