ORLANDO, Fla. – This year marks the 20th anniversary of Matthew Shepard’s death, who his parents say was openly gay and murdered.

  • Shepard family wants to stop hate by teaching compassion
  • Family spoke w/ panel including LEOs, LGBT advocates

Spectrum News 13 spoke with Matthew’s parents, who spoke at an event called ‘Stay Proud, Be Loud’ in Orlando.

Judy and Dennis Shepard, who started the Matthew Shepard Foundation, speak around the country.

They say the goal of the foundation is to erase hate by replacing it with compassion and acceptance through their son Matthew’s story.

Dennis and Judy Shepard are from Wyoming. Their son was 21 years old.

“He was very empathetic, a peer counselor when he was in school. He was a good listener and cared about other people’s well-being,” Judy said.

In 1998, Shepard says Matthew just finished attending a LGBT meeting and went to a tavern where he met two men.

“He took a ride with them to another party or a home … they robbed him immediately. They continued to beat him in the cab of a pickup, took him out in the prairie, tied him to a split rail fence, (and) continued to beat him with a butt of a .357 magnum, swinging it like a bat,” Judy said.

He was found 18 hours later and later died at a hospital.

Tuesday, Dennis and Judy spoke with a panel composed of law enforcement and members of the LGBT community to discuss hate crime.

‘’We need to get information on hate crimes. We need to start making hate crimes reporting mandatory. So no matter what part of country, if they have they problem, they can start focusing (on) education to correct those problems,” Dennis said.

In Orlando, Orlando Police Department says there have been 16 documented hate crimes since 2010.

They say people should report it. Police have resources for hate crime victims, as well the LGBT Center.

Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson were convicted and sentenced to life in prison for Matthew’s murder.