The head of a local LGBT-rights advocacy group faces charges that include forgery and impersonating a public servant.
According to a criminal complaint filed by state police, Delta Foundation president Gary Van Horn used emergency lights in his car, and attracted police attention by directing traffic, while wearing an emergency vest, during a building fire last April. In a later incident, the police affidavit asserts, city police received a complaint from a Downtown pedestrian who said they were nearly struck by an undercover police vehicle. Videotape from a surveillance camera showed a car, with flashing emergency lights, that police identified as Van Horn's.
When officers confronted him, Van Horn allegedly presented them with documents authorizing him to use the lights. Some of the documents appeared to be signed by Allegheny County Sheriff William Mullen. But "Mullen related he never gave Van Horn authorization ... and he, Mullen, did not sign the documents that display his signature," the affidavit says. "The signatures are not that of Mullen."
The sheriff's office declined comment. Van Horn's attorney, Phil DiLucente, did not immediately return a call for comment Wednesday afternoon, but told KDKA Radio that Van Horn would turn himself in sometime Wednesday.
"Whenever you have a client like Mr. Van Horn … anybody that’s a leader like him, you look at their history and you look at all the good that they’ve done, and it just sounds so far-fetched," DiLucente said. "He’s now approximately 40 years old and there’s nothing like this in his history. … Something to me just doesn’t smell right in Dodge.”
Van Horn has led the Delta Foundation, which leads the city's Pride parade, for the past 12 years. But while the group is among the most visible LGBT organizations in the city, it has also been accused of sidelining the concerns of transgender people and people of color, and soaking up resources for celebrations like Pride, at the expense of more critical needs.
In a social-media statement Wednesday, The Delta Foundation said Van Horn was taking a leave of absence.
"During this time, our priority continues to be to advocate on behalf of our community members and to ensure that they are treated with dignity, respect & inclusion," the group said.