HOUSTON, Texas — An artwork timeline hangs in the living room of longtime couple Stephen Tompkins and Mark Gartner.
It chronicles things like their first meeting in 1984 at a movie and the founding of a group called Q-Patrol in 1991.
"It was a neighborhood patrol that walked around in the club areas,” Tompkins said.
KHOU 11 News followed Q-Patrol around the Montrose area for a number of stories back then.
"We would notice pickup trucks full of guys in the backs with baseball bats and bottles,” Gartner said.
Gartner and Tompkins were among Q-Patrol’s founding members following the murder of 27-year-old banker Paul Broussard. He was attacked as he left a gay club by 10 young men from The Woodlands armed with steel-toed boots, knives and other weapons.
"Oh, it was devastating,” Gartner said.
Neither Gartner nor Tompkins knew Broussard personally., but the crime and a second murder that same year galvanized the community and Q-Patrol. Gartner said the patrol worked more cohesively with police after two cops went undercover for a news report.
"And those officers had not been on the street for 20 minutes until they got attacked," Gartner recalled. "And those two officers became our allies. They were like, 'These guys are serious, there is a problem here.”
Q-Patrol eventually reported potential threats directly to the Houston Police Department.
"We would be able to get in touch with the police, tell them where they were and the police would actually take custody of them and take them to the substation and have a talk with them,” Tompkins said.
Gartner assessed Q-Patrol’s success in a KHOU story back when the group was still active.
“I feel like we have made some definite progress,” he said then.
He is even more convinced decades later.
"We definitely saved some people from being assaulted," Gartner said. "We probably saved some lives.”
There's been recent talk of possibly resurrecting Q-Patrol by current advocacy groups, given the state of affairs regarding the LGBT community.