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Photos courtesy of Richard Shpuntoff
Photos courtesy of Richard Shpuntoff

It was the brutal hate crime against a gay man that spurred an unprecedented outpouring of love and prompted the Queens LGBT movement.

Queens Theatre will present the documentary “Julio of Jackson Heights” on Friday, July 1, at 7 p.m. After the screening, some of the main character’s friends and others who were involved in creating the documentary will lead a conversation about the homicide and its aftermath. (Attendance is free, but reservations are required.)

According to reports, three young men — Daniel Doyle, Erik Brown, and Esat Bici — attacked Julio Rivera, a gay, 29-year-old bartender, with a claw hammer, a plumber’s wrench and a kitchen knife in P.S. 69’s schoolyard on July 2, 1990. At first, the police treated the murder as a drug deal gone bad, as traces of cocaine were found in Rivera’s blood, and the press basically ignored the story.

However, Rivera’s family members and friends insisted that he was targeted due to his sexual preference. Jackson Heights had a large gay community at the time, and more than a dozen murders of gay men there in the 1970s and 1980s had gone unsolved. They began an organized movement that sparked candlelight vigils, the creation of three LGBT organizations, and the founding of the Queens Pride Parade, an annual event that runs along 37th Avenue in Jackson Heights.

Documentarian Richard Shpuntoff, who grew up a few blocks from the scene of the crime, attended the first Queens Pride Parade in 1993 and took photos, which he then presented to the organizers. He returned the following year as the official photographer, and he has documented every parade since. Eventually, he decided to make “Julio of Jackson Heights.”

“Julio of Jackson Heights” will also screen at Elmhurst Hospital Center tonight, June 30, at 7 p.m.

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