A Greek drag queen is dead after what media outlets are reporting was a botched robbery attempt at a jewelry store in Athens. Police are claiming LGBTQ activist Zak Kostopoulos, known professionally as Zachie Oh, entered the store in Omonia Square on Friday afternoon carrying a knife and intending to commit robbery. But the owner reportedly stepped outside the store, locking Kostopoulos inside, and when Kostopoulos realized the door had locked behind him he began to panic.
Surveillance video shows Kostopoulos trying to break the front window with a fire extinguisher as two men attack him from outside.
As Kostopoulos crawled through broken glass to get outside the store, the men (one of whom is believed to be the store owner) repeatedly kicked him in the head. Out on the sidewalk, both civilians and police allegedly continued hitting and stomping on him.
Paramedics attempted first aid but Kostopoulos, 33, died while en route to the hospital.
According to Neo Kosmos, the shopkeeper has been arrested but the second assailant is still at large. According to his attorney, the store owner had been the victim of robbery before and was only trying to protect his property.
Activists dispute that version of events and are labeling the incident a hate crime. It’s also not clear why police continued to beat Kostopoulos even after he was handcuffed.
In addition to being a Greek drag queen, Kostopoulos — as Zachie Oh — was active in gender and gay rights. Open about being HIV-positive, he also worked with Positive Voice, Greece’s leading HIV/AIDS group. Nearly 500 people attended a vigil in his honor on Saturday night.
On social media, friends and allies also mourned his passing.
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Greece 🇬🇷 RIP @zackie.oh AKA Zak Kostopoulos – LGBT activist with a drag show appearance on @demy_official “this is love” video for @eurovision 2017 he was beaten to death while attempting to steal a jewellery store in the very center of Athens this afternoon. We are all shocked 😮 @oikotimes #melfest #eurovision #oikotimes
“His murder is all over the news presented as an accident,” writes one person on Instagram. “[That] he died trying to escape through a shop window after supposedly attempting armed robbery. The brutal video accompanying those articles shows a very different truth: a disoriented, unarmed Zak trying to escape and the shop owner with another man brutally kicking him to death. The Greek public is talking about the shop owner’s right to protect his property from drug-addicted HIV-positive faggots. What they don’t know is that Zak, our Zak, spoke openly and without shame about being or having been all three.”
“His words, his songs and his dance brought light and joy to a whole generation of queer people,” the friend adds. “Spread the word. Spread our anger. HIS MURDER WILL NOT GO UNPUNISHED.”
“My heart breaks for him and his family and the entire LGBTQ+ family in Greece,” writes New York queen Sherry Vine, who called Kostopoulos “a kind, funny, queer, outrageous sweetheart.”