July 24, 2011

Former political candidate found dead; Police say Vanderpool shot himself

Matthew D. Vanderpool, who lost a bid for the 45th District state House of Representatives seat last fall, was pronounced dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head early Wednesday, several hours after Lexington police responded to a call about a suicidal man at 812 Wheatcroft Court.

Authorities went to the address after a man who lives out of state called police about 9:40 p.m. Tuesday, saying his son was having suicidal thoughts and had a gun, Lexington police Lt. Rodney Sherrod said.

When police arrived at the home, near Russell Cave Road and Interstate 75/64, they heard a gunshot coming from inside the home and a window break in the garage, Sherrod said.

Police evacuated neighbors and used a phone and a bullhorn to try to make contact with whoever was inside.

Vanderpool, 26, was later found in the garage, Lexington police Lt. Raymond Roller said.

Fayette County chief deputy coroner Miles White said the coroner's office was called at 12:49 a.m. Wednesday. Vanderpool was pronounced dead about a half-hour later. White said the Wheatcroft Court address is the home of Vanderpool's mother.

At 7:36 p.m. Tuesday on Facebook, Vanderpool reminisced about his life and his friends.

"I have friends that are by my side like security at a presidential debate," he wrote. "They protect me from not only others, but from myself. We have shared some crazy times, happy times, sad times and times that we will never forget ... one because the video camera won't let us and two because that is who we are as friends. My friends are my family."

Vanderpool closed the note by saying, "I've just been looking back today at some of the things I have done and started a list of the things I want to do! Just writing thoughts I guess."

Jordan Palmer, president of the Kentucky Equality Federation, who shared an apartment in Lexington with Vanderpool, said: "He was happy, and he wasn't having any problems that I'm aware of. He was a wonderful public figure and a wonderful person to talk to."

Palmer, who managed Vanderpool's House seat campaign, said Vanderpool had an open mind about everything and all points of view.

Palmer, who has another home in Hazard, drove to Lexington on Wednesday after receiving a call about Vanderpool's death from state Rep. Ruth Ann Palumbo of Lexington, he said.

Palmer said he had talked to Vanderpool by phone a couple of days before his death and didn't notice anything wrong with his friend.

Vanderpool, who was openly gay, was at the Kentucky Equality Federation's booth during last month's Lexington Pride Festival, a celebration of Central Kentucky's gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community, Jordan Palmer said.

"He begged me to go to the after-parties," Palmer said.

Vanderpool and his mother drove to Hazard in June to protest the expulsion of two gay men with mental disabilities from a city-owned swimming pool, he said.

"He had a strong sense of what was right and wrong," Palmer said. He also said that he and his friend didn't always agree on politics but could "always find mutual ground."

Vanderpool, a Democrat, defeated Michael Coblenz, a patent lawyer and Air Force veteran, in the May 2010 45th District primary. Vanderpool raised only $150 for the campaign, and he said he didn't buy a single yard sign or advertisement. Coblenz raised $6,000.

In the November general election, Vanderpool received 6,217 votes to Republican incumbent Stan Lee's 13,135. During the race, Vanderpool said he was a "worker" and Lee was an "ideologue."

"We have lost a very promising young man, and we offer our deepest sympathy to Matthew's family and friends," said Fayette County Democratic Party chairwoman Brenda P. McClanahan, who is a member of the state executive committee.

Vanderpool, a Lexington native, was a customer-service representative for Tempur-Pedic, a disaster-relief specialist for the American Red Cross and a member of the Young Democrats.

Survivors include his parents, Thomas Vanderpool of Corbin and Judy Kovacs of Lexington; his stepmother, Brenda Vanderpool of Corbin; his stepfather, Doug Kovacs of Lexington; and a brother, Justin Vanderpool.

A memorial service will be at 6 p.m. Saturday at Kerr Brothers Funeral Home on Harrodsburg Road. Visitation will be after 4 p.m. Saturday at the funeral home. Memorial gifts are suggested to the Lexington chapter of the American Red Cross.

Read more here: http://www.kentucky.com/2011/07/14/1810483/former-political-candidate-found.html#storylink=cpy

July 19, 2011

Discrimination incident in Hazard handled with care

By Bruce Burris and Crystal Bader
Opinion - Op-Ed
 - Bruce Burris and Crystal Bader are owners of Latitude Artist Community, a Lexington agency with an emphasis on serving those with disabilities.

July 19, 2011 - Kentucky, as we know only too well, plays a role on the national stage as the butt of many cruel jokes and condescending asides.

Who hasn't felt that "oh no, not again" feeling when faced with yet another derogatory joke, study, survey, celebrity anecdote and so on which our entertainment and media industries gleefully cultivate?

Most recently, Lexington was stung when named by a men's magazine as the "most sedentary" city in the U.S., apparently based on a rather dubious study that did little more than combine the number of video games bought with the amount of television watched.

If Lexington may on occasion be stung, then little Hazard has often found itself at ground zero for this form of national hazing.

In early June, all the ingredients for a perfect media storm were brewing there, the result of an incident at a city swimming pool in which two gay men (both with intellectual disabilities) were expelled by an employee of the city who cited the Bible while admonishing both men for what, in his opinion, was an excessive display of "gay" affection.

National and even international media followed, as expected, and there was no shortage of outrageous and patronizing coverage.

But what news sources failed to cover was the remarkable way in which those implicated (the city), those aggrieved (the couple), their provider/company and its staff (Mending Hearts) and those who helped advocate and educate (Kentucky Equality Federation) worked together to find common ground and a viable solution.

To us, the most compelling aspect of this story is the way in which Mending Hearts supported its constituents. They never shied away from the simple truth that their clients are gay. According to news reports, it was the agency itself that contacted both Hazard city officials and Jordan Palmer of the Kentucky Equality Federation.

From this, there is much to learn by nearly everyone involved in supporting those considered to have intellectual disabilities in Kentucky. It has been very disappointing to note how little the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services, various university-affiliated research and education institutions and related programs and agencies responsible for study and training in the field of disability have done in support of those with intellectual disabilities who are also gay, lesbian, or bisexual.

The silence here pretty much sums up our culture's lack of resolve and makes the practice of discriminating against gay clients — not to mention gay caregivers — acceptable.

While it is probably true that most providers do their best to support gay clients and their staff, substantial numbers do not. In recent years, the Cabinet has courted faith-based providers, some of whom choose legally not to employ gay staff.

Discriminatory hiring practices are, of course, not limited to faith-based providers. But if employing gay caregivers is discouraged by a provider agency, are we really to believe that such agencies are capable of supporting gay clients?

Yet all providers have a mandate to do just that.

Earlier this year, we heard of a local agency that chose to separate two gay clients who shared a residential facility, rather than support the relationship. And recently a longtime case manager mentioned to us that she had never received any training on support of such clients. We believe this gap in education must be addressed.

Our thanks to those involved in the Hazard pool reconciliation for providing a wonderful example of how to support all people. This, in turn, invigorates and encourages the rest of us to stand up and do the right thing in our own day-to-day efforts.

Read more: http://www.kentucky.com/2011/07/19/1816199/discrimination-incident-in-hazard.html#storylink=misearch#ixzz1U1beGyyI

July 13, 2011

Jordan Palmer Releases Statement On Death Of Former House Candidate

Kentucky Equality Federation president Jordan Palmer released a statement Wednesday, mourning the death of a former state house candidate who shot himself during a standoff with police.

Palmer served as Mathew Vanderpool's campaign manager in the Kentucky House District 45 race. Vanderpool challenged Republican incumbent Rep. Stan Lee.

"Mr. Vanderpool is/was my roommate and a wonderful person; he also volunteered for Kentucky Equality Federation. I am devastated by this loss. His loss will be felt by everyone who knew and loved him; I knew him since 2006 when he first approached me about volunteering for Kentucky Equality Federation and one day running for public office. He was a wonderful friend and I will miss him forever," Palmer wrote.

Police say they responded to a home on Wheatcroft Court around 9:45 p.m. Tuesday to check on a person inside the home. When officers arrived, they heard a gun shot. Police evacuated residents nearby as a precaution, and an emergency response unit later entered the home.

The coroner says Vanderpool, 24, was found with a fatal, apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head in a car in the garage of the home.

Vanderpool defeated an Air Force veteran and a lawyer to win the 2010 Democratic primary for the 45th district of Kentucky's House of Representatives. Lee defeated him in the general election last November.

During the campaign, Vanderpool told LEX 18 that he was running not as a "gay candidate, but as a candidate who happens to be gay."

News Link: http://www.lex18.com/news/former-campaign-manager-releases-statement-on-death-of-former-house-candidate/