The Dover Hotel was a rundown five-story brick building located in downtown Los Angeles. The hotel operated as an early version of the soon to become popular bathhouse scene. Gay men checked in, removed their clothing, and laid on their beds with the doors ajar waiting for others to walk by in the hopes of meeting someone.
The Dover not surprisingly, was also the scene of a number of raids by the LAPD’s Vice Squad and was known to them as an easy bust for “faggots”.
During a raid by the Vice Squad on March 9th, 1969, just 4 months shy of the Stonewall riots in NYC, Howard Efland, a male nurse who checked into the hotel under the pseudonym of J. McCann. By the end of that day Efland would be brutally beaten outside the hotel by police in front of numerous witnesses and would later die.
LA vice officers Lemuel Chauncey and Richard Halligan claimed that Efland groped them so they arrested him, dragged him naked, bleeding and screaming down a flight of stairs by his feet and into the street. In front of several witnesses the two police officers who were well over 6’2 inches started beating the slightly built, unarmed and and non-resisting gay man to death while he screamed “Help me! My God, someone help me!” The two police officers kicked him repeatedly, did knee drops onto his stomach, and savagely beat him.
While several witnesses claimed that Howard Efland died at the scene. Chauncy and Halligan stated that Elfland was alive as they “threw” the body into the back of the police wagon. The claimed that halfway down to the station from where they had arrested him that Efland had kicked open the door and fell out onto the Hollywood Freeway.
The Admissions Officer who was on duty at County General Hospital testified at the Coroner’s inquest that when they received Efland, they tied him down to the bed and he was in bad shape. The Nurse testified that she went into the other room with the cop because the guy had bitten his finger. Forty minutes later while she’s still working on the cop (?) another nurse came and said ‘hey, the guy in the other room died.’
The L.A.P.D. first informed Efland’s parents that their son had merely died of a heart attack. Later the L.A. County Coroner ruled Elfland’s death an “excusable homicide” and the story was withheld from the mainstream media. However the once great gay newspaper the Advocate picked up the story and responded strongly by calling the L.A.P.D. “psychotics”
The Rev. Troy Perry, founder of the Metropolitan Community Church would lead 120 marchers in a rally to the the site of Dover to commemorate Efland’s fatal beating and murder.
“I had told my congregation over and over that our church was built on a three-prong gospel: the gospel of Christian salvation, the gospel of Christian community and the gospel of Christian social action. Absolutely: Christian social action. We are meant to go out and bring deliverance to people. So I told them ‘I want you to come and march with me’. Perry said.
In the end no one was ever held accountable for the murder of Howard Efland.
After publishing this story in 2014 the nephew of Howard Eflland contacted Back2Stonewall.com Being very young when it happened he was never told the true nature of his Uncle’s death.
Back2Stonewall has attempted to call the L.A.P.D. numerous times in the hopes of getting an apology for Howard Elfland’s surviving family.
There has never been an official response to any of them.
We continue to try.