Unfinished Lives

Remembering LGBT Hate Crime Victims

“Gay Panic Defense” Outlawed by California

California Governor Jerry Brown signed gay panic defense ban into law, making it the first in the nation.

California Governor Jerry Brown signed gay panic defense ban into law, making it the first in the nation.

Sacramento, California – The Golden State has outlawed the notorious “gay panic defense” as an excuse for violence against the sexual minority. Defendants in California can no longer claim their deeds of physical harm against gay and transgender victims were triggered by alarm at a person’s sexual orientation or gender expression. Governor Jerry Brown signed the legislation into law on September 27.

As Gay Star News reports, Rick Zbur, Equality California Executive Director, said in a statement to the press on Sunday, “The ‘panic defense’ is a homophobic and transphobic ploy that blames the victims of horrific acts of violence for the crimes committed against them.” Zbur went on to commend Governor Brown for signing the bill making this infamous legal dodge based on fear illegal: “[Such a ploy] has no place in California’s legal system, and we applaud Gov. Brown for signing this groundbreaking, first-in-the-nation legislation.”

The law, according to California Legislative Information, entitled “AB-2501 Voluntary manslaughter,” now bans the excuse from use in California courts that “the victim made an unwanted non-forcible romantic or sexual advance towards the defendant” or “the defendant and victim dated or had a romantic or sexual relationship.”

Some defendants in horrendous cases of physical violence against transgender or gay/lesbian victims succeeded in playing upon the fears and latent biases of juries with the gay panic defense, and winning lesser sentences and penalties from the courts as a result. The most widely covered California case in which the gay panic defense was effective in reducing a sentence was the execution-style gunshot murder of teen ager Larry Fobes King of Oxnard by his teen age classmate, Brandon McInerney. In the 2011 trial, defense attorneys argued that the real offender was the murdered King, who allegedly flirted with McInerney, a youth who had been deeply influenced by Neo-Nazi ideologies and prejudices. The court reduced McInerney’s charges to second-degree murder and voluntary manslaughter after trying him as a juvenile, in contravention of California law that clearly mandated McInterney, though a teen, must be tried as an adult because of the heinous nature of the crime, and the premeditation exhibited in King’s execution in their morning computer classroom. King was, of course, unable to defend himself against the charges and allegations made by defense attorneys, since he was dead and buried. Because of a plea bargain deal, McInerney received a 21-year sentence instead of a longer, more appropriate term, solely because of the gay panic defense.

Larry King and his murderer, Brandon McInerney (AP photo).

Larry King and his murderer, Brandon McInerney (AP photo).

Reflecting on the King/McInerney case, SF Weekly carried an op-ed article arguing that “It’s a heinous defense tactic that banks on a judge or jury’s own homophobia, apportioning some blame onto victims in order to get a murder charge downgraded to manslaughter. Leaning on a ‘heat of passion’ line of thinking deliberately turns a trial into something out of a pulp novel. Gay panic benefits from anti-LGBT bias, and adds to it as well, by dredging up ancient stereotypes of gays as sexual predators who can’t be trusted not to curb their appetites.” 

Now, such legal queer-baiting is out of bounds in California and has become a model for other states to emulate.

October 1, 2014 Posted by | African Americans, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Brandon McInerney, California, gay panic defense, gay panic defense ban, GLBTQ, Governor Jerry Brown, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Larry King, LGBTQ, transgender persons, transphobia | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off

Bisexual Man Shot to Death Outside His Home; Suspect Arrested and Charged with Hate Crime

Juan Ceballos, 20, gunned down because he was bisexual [KESQ photo].

Juan Ceballos, 20, gunned down because he was bisexual [KESQ photo].

Mecca, California – A 20-year-old openly bisexual man was murdered in his car as he parked in the driveway of his home.  Juan Ceballos, a student at the College of the Desert, had just returned home Sunday night, July 13, from work with pizza for his four siblings and his mother when a co-worker who had been lying in wait opened fire, fatally wounding him. According to KESQ TV News, his younger brother, 17-year-old Sergio Ceballo, rushed outside to find his brother Juan dying behind the wheel of his car.  Sergio and the family say that the reason for the murder of their beloved Juan was because of irrational hatred for Juan’s bisexuality.  Riverside County Sheriff’s Deputies agreed with the motive for Juan’s murder.  After the arrest of Miguel Angel Bautista Ramirez, 25, of Thermal, California, on Monday, July 28, he was charged with felony murder, hate crime, and lying in wait. The Desert Sun reports that prosecutors filed a criminal complaint against Ramirez citing “bias against” gays and bisexual persons. On August 1, Ramirez pled not guilty to the charges.  He is being held without bail, and will be arraigned on August 11. Because the attack was bias-driven, premeditated, and fatal, Ramirez could face the death penalty.

“I have to step up now, like [Juan] did,” Sergio said to KESQ. Juan Ceballos was a well-regarded, happy person who worked hard to help out his mother and four siblings.  He had worked in the agricultural fields to pay personal bills and help support his family, but currently was working two jobs to make ends meet: at a gas station and a Pizza Hut.  Upon hearing the news of Ramirez’s arrest, Sergio said, “If he is the one who killed [Juan], I hope they keep him off the street so that no other family will have to go through the pain we are.”  When asked about how someone could kill another person because of his sexual orientation, Sergio said wiping away tears, “If that is the reason [Ramirez] did that to him, I don’t even know why.”  Speaking with KMIR NBC News, Sergio said that his brother’s killer was “stupid” to do such a thing because of sexuality.   “[Juan] was more like a father, not as a brother, he was head of the house, he was our support,” said Sergio.  “He said he was looking for happiness in a world full of evil,” Sergio continued, “maybe he was right. The world is full of evil, and I don’t know why they ever did this to him.  He was our guide. Everything we have now we owe to him. I’m going to continue with all of this, but now I’m going to have to do this without him,” Sergio concluded.

Juan’s mother, Maria Teresa Mendez, said, her son was “a happy person who tried to guide his siblings to do good in life.  I expect justice for the person who did this.”

August 7, 2014 Posted by | anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Bisexual persons, California, GLBTQ, gun violence, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Latino and Latina Americans, LGBTQ | , , , , , , , , | Comments Off

Infamous Lesbian Murder Case Cracked in Texas: Alleged Shooter Arrested After Two-Year Investigation

David Malcolm Strickland, suspect in the lesbian murder assault case (EDGE photo).

David Malcolm Strickland, suspect in the lesbian murder assault case (EDGE photo).

Portland, Texas – Nearly two years after teenage lesbian lovers were abducted and shot on a steep grassy hillside in this South Texas coastal town, a 27-year-old suspect has finally been arrested, according to Portland, Texas law enforcement authorities.  David Malcolm Strickland was arrested Friday and charged with the capital murder of Mollie Olgin, 19 at the time of the shooting, and for the aggravated assault with a deadly weapon of Kristene Chapa, 18, whom he allegedly shot in the head at the same time.  Chapa survived, though the damage to the left side of her brain left her unable to walk, sit, or stand.  Only with years of therapy and surgery has Chapa been able to reacquire her balance and mobility.  In addition to these charges, the shooter has been charged with aggravated sexual assault. Details are still emerging from the investigation, and further charges may be brought, according to authorities. Strickland’s wife, Laura Kimberly, 23, has also been detained by Portland Police, and faces charges of tampering with evidence.

“I hope that it gives [the victims, their families, and community members] some closure knowing that this person is taken off the street,” Portland Police Chief Gary Giles said to NBC News. “It is one day before the two-year anniversary. We’ve been working very hard to make sure we get him as soon as possible. A series of fortunate events has led us to this point and I’m just very happy that we could help in — at least at this point — in bringing him to justice.”

Strickland was apprehended in the Helotes suburb of San Antonio on Friday by Texas Rangers and U.S. Marshals. Texas Rangers, U.S. Marshals, and Portland Police officers took Strickland’s wife into custody.  Robert R. Almonte, U.S. Marshal for the Western District of Texas told NBC News, “My sympathies and condolences to the victims and their families who had to endure this wicked act of violence. [Strickland] is a stone cold killer who thought he got away with murder, but will finally pay for his crime.”

The reconstructed murder event that took place in Portland remains chilling, even after two years.  Chapa, now 20 years old, said she went with Olgin on Friday night, June 23, 2012 to Violet Andrews Park, to see where Olgin had been baptized.  The suspect forced the teenagers at gun point down a steep incline where he bound them, sexually assaulted them, and shot them both, leaving them to die.  A couple out bird watching the next morning discovered the victims.  Olgin had died of her wounds, but Chapa, who had clawed her way out of the sharp, thorny brush, survived, and was rushed to a medical center for emergency surgery.  Chapa returned to the scene of the crime to assist investigators.  She recounted to a reporter how difficult it was for her to go back to the place where her lover died so cruelly. “I felt every cut, every thorn go through my hand,” she said of the brush she fought to get out of, pointing to the scars still plainly visible on her arms. “I kept thinking, ‘I’ve got to get help.’”

Sergeant Roland Chavez of the Portland Police Department discussed the investigation with reporters.  DNA evidence from finger prints around the crime scene initially belonged to over 250 suspects, Chavez said.  Then the slow process of singling out the shooter had to go step-by-step.  Investigators wanted to make sure they had the right man before making the arrest, else they feared Chapa would only be victimized again by a false ID.  The shooter used a .45 caliber handgun on the teenagers, sometime between 11:30 p.m. and midnight on Friday, June 23, 2012.  The teenagers had no prior knowledge of their attacker, which complicated the case, making it even seem more brutal and bizarre.  Neither did the suspect have a previous criminal record, providing officers another hurdle to overcome.  Chavez speculated that the shooter may have fantasized about such a crime long before the actual event, and worked himself up to doing it over time. The birdwatching couple who discovered Olgin and Chapa stumbled across the gruesome scene at about 8:30 a.m. the next day.

R to L: Mollie Judith Olgin (deceased), and Mary Kristene Chapa, teen victims of brutal shooting two years ago this month.

R to L: Mollie Judith Olgin (deceased), and Mary Kristene Chapa, teen victims of brutal shooting two years ago this month.

Authorities are still at a loss to explain the motive for the crime at this point.  They have consistently ruled out anti-lesbian hatred as a motive, but the suspicion that homophobia and certainly heterosexism may have played a part in targeting the couple just won’t go away. Hate crimes against women are particularly difficult to sort out, since homophobia is so often a weapon of sexism.

Chapa still struggles to open and close her left hand.  The bullet destroyed the area of her brain controlling motion on her left side.  Her wounds left her an invalid, much like a stroke victim.  Hard work, support, and courage are paying off.  Though she will never regain total mobility, Chapa told reporters that she knows she will almost get there, if she just keeps up the struggle.  Worse for her is the loss of her girlfriend, Mollie Olgin.  “Every day I think about her,” she said of Olgin. “I pray for her, just for her to watch over me.”  Since the attack, Chapa has reached out to other victims of gun violence and paralysis, like the families devastated by the Newtown School shooting in Connecticut.  “I opened up myself to them and just told them how my story is similar, I just put my feelings in there,” she said to NBC News, also saying that she hopes “to meet more victims who have been shot because we relate. I’m pretty sure we’ve been through a lot of the same things and have felt the same ways.”

She and her parents are still appealing to the public to help fund Chapa’s rehabilitation, care, and recovery.  Her family has exhausted their resources, and though a good deal of money has been donated these past two years, it hasn’t been enough.  Chapa says that she and her folks are “pretty much alone” in the effort to finance her health care. The funding site originally set up to assist with Chapa’s care has been discontinued without public explanation.

After a news conference arranged by the Portland Police Department to announce Strickland’s arrest, Chapa reflected on her feelings.  Though she told the Corpus Christi Caller-Times she felt safer now that the suspect was in custody, the pain and loss are still there for her. “It will never take back the pain and hurt he did to our families. And it won’t bring Mollie back,” she said. “Right now for both our families this is very hard.”  

San Patricio District Attorney Michael Welborn believes they have their man. “We feel we have a very strong case to put forth,” he said. “We fully believe that we are going to bring justice to these two young ladies and their families.”

June 23, 2014 Posted by | Anti-LGBT hate crime, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, gay teens, GLBTQ, gun violence, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Lesbian teens, Lesbian women, LGBTQ, Texas, women | , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off

Outbreak of Anti-Gay Attacks in Brooklyn and Queens, New York Continues Trend of Homophobic Violence

Kevin Kiadii, 25, assaulted Wednesday in Brooklyn's Prospect Park for his sexual orientation.

Kevin Kiadii, 25, assaulted Wednesday in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park for his sexual orientation.

Brooklyn, New York – Since Sunday of last week, there have been two anti-gay bias attacks reported in Brooklyn, and another hate crime assault in Queens, according to various news sources.  On Wednesday night, openly gay Kevin Kiadii, a 25-year-old freelance makeup artist and a male friend were assaulted in Prospect Park, CBS 2 reports.  Kiadii, notable for lodging a sexual misconduct suit against ex-Elmo voice artist, Kevin Clash (see NewsOne story), was randomly chosen for harassment and assault by a group of five teens who were allegedly drunk and/or high.  When the most aggressive of the teenagers, the one also displaying the most intoxication, confronted Kiadii with homophobic slurs, the gay man offered the youth a soda as an attempt to diffuse the situation.  Undeterred, the assailant took a “fighting stance,” in Kiadii’s words, and when Kiadii told him to back off, the youth jumped at Kiadii and said “‘I’m going to [expletive] you up’ and do this and ‘you F and [expletive].'” Kiadii took a perfume bottle from his bag and wielded it like a can of pepper spray to back off his attackers.  “One of the dudes tried to kick me in the face, but just missed and he got me in my shoulder,” Kiadii said.  Kiadii managed to get off a 911 call to police, handed his phone to a bystander, and wrestled with his main attacker, who left Kiadii with an injured hand, cuts and bruises.  Speaking to the New York Post, Kiadii said his ploy with the spray bottle of perfume may have prevented something much worse from happening to him.  “If it wasn’t for my Dior bottle, I’d be in so much damage,” he said.

The police responded quickly, arresting four youths ranged in age from 13 to 18 years of age, and a fifth suspect who is 21. Charges have been filed against the teens and the 21-year-old for harassment as a hate crime, and the prime assailant faces charges of aggravated assault as a hate crime, according to The Advocate.  Expressing his appreciation for the swift action of the police, Kiadii is thankful that he was not more seriously hurt.  Still, the assault has left him shaken but determined to broadcast what he had to face, so that others will not have to endure an anti-gay attack like his.  “I’m appalled. I’m in awe,” Kiadii told CBS 2. “I just really want my story told because I know there a lot of people in the city who deal with stuff like this.” 

Police sketches of Brooklyn subway gay basher and Queens suspect who attacked a woman while shouting anti-gay slurs.

Police sketches of Brooklyn subway gay basher (l) and Queens suspect (r) who attacked a woman while shouting anti-gay slurs.

Police are also searching for an unidentified Brooklyn suspect who punched a 27-year-old gay man twice in the face on the J Train at approximately 11:45 p.m. last Sunday, May 26.  The assailant hurled anti-gay slurs at his victim as he carried out the attack, according to DNAinfo.  The suspect fled out the back of the subway car to escape arrest.  Police described the suspect as a man in his mid-to-late-20s, 6 feet tall, with dark hair tied in a bun. He was last seen wearing a blue denim jacket, police said.  The New York Police Department Hate Crimes Task Force is carrying out the investigation.  The subway assault and investigation were announced by the New York Police Department on Friday of this week.  Also reported this week was an earlier bias-related attack upon a woman in Queens on March 17 of this year.  Police say that the suspect approached a 49-year-old woman, cursed her with homophobic epithets, and punched her in the face before fleeing the scene.  He is described as between the ages of 20 and 25, five feet four inches tall, 140 pounds, with brown eyes and black hair.  At the time of the assault, the attacker was wearing a small mustache.  The suspect reportedly has been sighted in the area of the 115th Police Precinct.  No explanation has been given for the lateness of the report on the Queens attack as of this report.

Anti-gay violence is spiking alarmingly throughout New York City.  Better than 30 incidents of anti-LGBT hate crimes have been reported this year, one of them a fatal shooting, easily doubling last year’s statistics for anti-gay attacks during the same time period.

June 2, 2013 Posted by | Anti-LGBT hate crime, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Beatings and battery, Brooklyn, Gang violence, gay bashing, gay men, GLBTQ, harassment, Hate Crime Statistics, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, LGBTQ, New York, New York City, Queens, Slurs and epithets, Unsolved LGBT Crimes, women | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off

Savage Anti-Gay Murder in NYC Highlights Increasing Danger for LGBT People

Mark Carson, 32, openly gay man shot to death in the face in NYC (Gay Star News photo).

Mark Carson, 32, openly gay NYC man fatally shot in the face (Gay Star News photo).

New York City, New York – A gay man shot to death at point blank range early Saturday morning became the fifth anti-gay hate crime to strike fear into Gotham City in recent weeks.  Mark Carson, 32, an openly gay yogurt shop worker from Brooklyn, who was walking with a companion in Greenwich Village, faced his harasser, who taunted his victim with homophobic slurs before fatally shooting him in the face, saying “You want to die here tonight?”.  The assailant was collared in a matter of a few blocks by a police officer who had the description of the shooter.  The officer seized the murder weapon along with the suspect.  Elliot Morales, 33, is in the custody of the NYPD, charged with second degree murder as a hate crime, and is being held in jail without bail.

After being goaded by a series of previous gay bashings in Midtown Manhattan in the Madison Square Garden area, some involving Knicks fans in full team attire, the LGBTQ and Allied community in the greater NYC metro area has erupted into angry, frightened protests.  The Associated Press reports that thousands took to the streets on Monday to cry out against Carson’s murder, making this the most powerful demonstration of anti-hate crime street activism since the days of Matthew Shepard, fourteen years ago. NYC Council Speaker, Christine Quinn, marched arm in arm with Edie Windsor, the key plaintiff in the case for Marriage Equality now before the Supreme Court of the United States.  Emotions on a spectrum from disbelief that such a brazen crime could occur in the City, through towering rage against the cold-blooded killing of a defenseless gay man in the heart of the most tolerant neighborhood in New York, to abject fear that the streets of the city are unsafe to walk openly for gay people.  Carson fell just blocks from the site of the birth of the Gay Rights Movement during the famous Stonewall Riots of 1969.

Morales, the alleged shooter, once charged with attempted murder in 1998, was filled with “homophobic glee,” laughing as he confessed to police that he pulled the trigger on Carson, according to the New York Daily News.   Morales was seen just 15 minutes before the attack, publicly urinating outside an upscale Greenwich Village restaurant beside the storied Stonewall Inn.  Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly candidly commented to the press that Carson had done nothing to antagonize his assailant, according to USA Today.  “It’s clear that the victim here was killed only because and just because he was thought to be gay,” Commissioner Kelly said.

The Daily News speculates that Morales’s homophobia had been ignited by the way Carson, a proud, out gay man, was dressed–in a tank top with cut off shorts and boots.  Prosecutors say that Morales shouted at Carson and his friend, “Hey, you faggots!  You look like gay wrestlers!”  According to his family, Carson was happy, well-adjusted, and loved the West Village where he met his death .  “He was a courageous person,” Carson’s brother, Michael Bumpars, said. “My brother was a beautiful person.”  

Makeshift shrine at the spot Mark Carson was shot to death in West Village.

Makeshift shrine at the spot Mark Carson was shot to death in West Village.

Naïve pundits have said that the increasing visibility and political success of LGBT people to gain mainstream acceptance have ushered in a new era of queer acceptance in American life.  Some have even declared the “victory” of the gay rights movement.  Such self-congratulations are premature.  Carson’s brazen murder by a totally unapologetic homophobe, coupled with the rash of LGBT youth suicides in schools across the nation, and reports of skyrocketing statistics of violence against transgender people of color, are giving the lie to the notion that the United States is safe for queer folk.  Some are now reversing their previous opinions, calling the violence evidence of a “backlash” against the recent success of Marriage Equality in New England, New York, the District of Columbia, and Minnesota.  Though New York State made same-sex marriage legal in 2011, NYC Police Commissioner Kelly revealed that though last year’s bias-crimes against LGBT people in the city numbered 13, the total now stands at 22 and counting.

June is Gay Pride Month in New York City.  Nerves are frayed.  Top city officials, politicians, and police top brass are scrambling to make this year’s celebration in Greenwich Village and around town safe.  New York City has earned the reputation of being the cradle of queer tolerance, and Mayor Bloomberg obviously wants to keep it that way.  Yet the violence in the streets of New York, now turned ominously fatal with Mark Carson’s grisly murder, may be a bellwether for things to come throughout the nation.  Morales, the alleged shooter, laughed and joked that he was proud to terrorize the LGBT community.  Foes of gay equality may be on the back foot because of the rapid acceptance of gay, lesbian, transgender, and bisexual people, particularly by younger Americans.  But homophobic, irrational hatred, the sort that maims and kills, has by no means gone away.  Nor does this recent spate of violence suggest a “backlash.”  When 38 states have written homophobia into their constitutions, or bolstered anti-gay statutes, this outbreak of harm can hardly be seen as anything but good, old fashioned American bigotry.  The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Projects (NCAVP) is closely monitoring events in New York and around the nation.  They advise non-confrontational efforts to diffuse potentially dire situations of violence.  Yet, the queer community has come too far to go back into the closet ever again.  To do so would dishonor the hopes, loves, and courage of openly gay men like Mark Carson.  Sharon Stapel, NCAVP’s executive director, said that these events must be understood in the context of a nation where basic equality is still denied to LGBT people. Her message to New York’s  gay community? “We want to give people tools that can de-escalate situations but also say, ‘You need to be yourself,'” Stapel said to ABC News. “We’re not telling people, ‘Take your rainbow sticker off.'”

May 21, 2013 Posted by | anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Bullying in schools, Christine Quinn, gay bashing, gay men, gay teens, GLBTQ, gun violence, Hate Crime Statistics, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, LGBTQ, LGBTQ suicide, Marriage Equality, National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP), New York, New York City, Protests and Demonstrations, Slurs and epithets, Social Justice Advocacy, Stonewall, Stonewall Inn, transgender persons, transphobia, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off

Cleveland Transgender Woman’s Body Found With Multiple Stab Wounds; Now 3 Trans Murders in April

Transgender woman Cemia Acoff, 20, stabbed to death and submerged in a pond west of Cleveland.

Transgender woman Cemia Acoff, 20, stabbed to death and submerged in a pond west of Cleveland.

Cleveland, Ohio – The badly decomposed body of a local transgender woman was found sunken in a pond on Wednesday, April 17.  The victim, Ms. Cemia Acoff, 20 years of age, also known as Ci Ci Dove by her friends, had been reported missing since March 27.  The pond, located in Olmstead Township west of Cleveland, was built to recycle runoff water from a once thriving greenhouse operation in the area.  Ms. Acoff’s body, riddled with stab wounds and naked from the waist down, was tied to a concrete block in order to weigh the corpse down to the bottom of the pond.  The Advocate reports that a resident of a close by apartment complex discovered the body, and notified police.  The coroner had to identify Ms. Acoff by testing her DNA, because of the state of the her remains.

Adding insult to the grief of family and friends, local news outlets heaped disrespect upon Ms. Acoff’s memory, sensationalizing her transition and employing a deeply insensitive reportage template to her story, referring to her as “a man in a dress,” a stock response of transphobic ignorance in situations like these.  The Cleveland Plain Dealer and Fox 8 were called to task by  GLAAD, faith leaders, and local LGBTQ advocates. For example, Fox 8 published a whole paragraph in their report demeaning Ms. Acoff’s character for having a police record, and describing the clothes found on her corpse.  The outcry against such negative coverage of the murder of a transgender woman caused both the Plain Dealer and Fox 8 to modify their previous stories, but GLAAD representative Aaron McQuade issued a statement to the press calling on both local news outlets to meet with GLAAD and members of the transgender community to learn what more they need to do to redress the damage they have already done to the memory of Ms. Acoff.  In part, McQuade stated: “The truth is, when someone like Cemia appears to identify as female sometimes and male other times, it’s because it’s still socially unacceptable (and often dangerous) to be transgender. The fact that some people in Acoff’s life didn’t know she sometimes identified as female, and the fact that her legal identification might not have reflected her gender identity, doesn’t change the fact that she was a transgender woman.”  

CemiaTransGriot points that the murder of Ms. Acoff is the third anti-transgender hate crime homicide of an African American transwoman reported in the month of April alone.  Besides Ms. Acoff, 29-year-old Kelly Young was shot to death in Baltimore on April 3, and 30-year-old  Ashley Sinclair of Orlando, Florida who was also found shot to death the next day, Thursday, April 4.  The murder of transwomen of color has reached alarming proportions throughout the nation in recent months–all the more reason to get the sad news of the loss of Cemia and her transgender sisters of color widely, sensitively, and accurately distributed throughout the media.  For a further report on the slow rolling decimation of the transgender population in the United States, see the landmark study, “Injustice at Every Turn: A Report of the National Transgender Discrimination Survey,” which may be accessed in detail on the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force website.

As of this writing, Ms. Acoff’s killer or killers remain at large with no leads.

May 1, 2013 Posted by | African Americans, Character assassination, Florida, gender identity/expression, GLAAD, GLBTQ, gun violence, Hate Crime Statistics, Hate Crimes, LGBTQ, Maryland, Media Issues, Ohio, Racism, Slurs and epithets, Social Justice Advocacy, stabbings, transgender persons, transphobia, Unsolved LGBT Crimes | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off

Transgender Woman Shot to Death in Baltimore

Kelly Young, 29, shot to death in a possible transphobic hate crime.

Kelly Young, 29, shot to death in a possible transphobic hate crime.

East Baltimore, Maryland – A beloved member of the transgender community of Baltimore was found shot on the floor of her apartment this Wednesday morning.  Kelly Young, 29, died in transit to the hospital.

The murder remains unsolved.  Baltimore City Police are investigating, but say that it is too early yet to determine that this homicide was a hate crime, according to WJZ TV, CBS Baltimore.  Officials say that they will make the determination about the hate crime status of the case as evidence warrants.  “Internally, we’ll investigate any incident as a hate crime if there is any sort of physical evidence that indicates it’s a hate crime,”  said Sgt. Eric Kowalczyk, Baltimore City police. “She had a lot of friends and a lot of loved ones who really want to bring this case to closure.”  Matt Thorn, spokesperson from the GLBT Resource Center of Baltimore and Central Maryland (GLCCB), said that the police were following every lead, and that the murder of Ms. Young might very well prove to be a transphobic hate crime meant to send a message to the LGBT community.

Community outrage at the murder is running high, and some of her friends are concerned with their own safety.  Dondria Naieem, a friend of Ms. Young, said to CBS Baltimore, “I’m scared to walk by myself and hang with a lot of people so people don’t get me.  It’s really hard to cope with her death.”  Ms. Young was born near where she died, and was a well-known and well-loved entertainer who performed regularly at a local club.  She had the reputation of being an accomplished dancer.

On Thursday, her family and friends gathered to remember Ms. Young and give thanks for her life.  Her sister, Monique Mack, told WMAR TV, the local ABC affiliate“The neighborhood embraced her — boys and girls, straight or gay she was embraced.”  “It wasn’t always a smooth road but I will say it was more smooth than not.”  Her mother spoke of her gifts and qualities, as well: “Everybody accepted her. That’s why everybody is here because everybody accepted her.  She kept it real.” 

Everybody except the person or the persons who gunned down Kelly Young, that is.  Neighbors, family and friends are determined to get to the bottom of why a person so beloved could be killed so cruelly.  Tanya Eley, Ms. Young’s longtime friend, said, “God knows whatever happened to her, God has them; they’re going to regret whatever they did to her because she was loved.”

April 6, 2013 Posted by | African Americans, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, GLBTQ, gun violence, Hate Crimes, LGBTQ, Maryland, Social Justice Advocacy, transgender persons, transphobia, Unsolved LGBT Crimes | , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Transgender Murder in Cincinnati Part of Alarming National Trend

Kendall L. Hampton, 26, gender variant person killed by gunshots in Cincinnati.

Cincinnati, Ohio – A 26-year-old gender-nonconforming person was found shot to death late last Saturday night.  Transgender and anti-violence advocates are drawing attention to the brutal murder of Kendall L. Hampton as they highlight the alarming increase in transgender and gender non-conforming violence in the country, especially against people of color.

Your Black World says that the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP) has identified nine gender non-conforming or transgender homicides this year so far.  Of the 30 documented murders of LGBTQ people registered by the NCAVP, 87% are either transgender or gender variant people of color.

WXIX TV 19 reports that Hampton, an alleged sex worker, was found fatally shot in a parking lot between a McDonald’s fast food restaurant and a Dairy Mart.  He was transported to nearby University Hospital where he was pronounced dead later that night. Police say that Hampton was shot twice by an unknown assailant.

The NCAVP and the Buckeye Region Anti-Violence Organization are calling on lawmakers and law enforcement officials to investigate Hampton’s murder for signs of gender, race, and sexual orientation bias.  An increasing chorus of advocates and everyday citizens is calling for better enforcement of hate crimes statutes, especially the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, signed into law by President Obama in October of 2009.  Social Justice activists note that since increased publicity has been focused on LGBTQ people since the Shepard Act became law, the rate of violence has increased each year. Some are calling for the passage of tougher anti-queer legislation to protect the vulnerable LGBTQ community.

Often news reports of prostitution are published by the media in gender variant homicide cases, not because gender non-conforming people are apt to be sex workers, but rather because the sensational titillation associated with the murder of prostitutes sells more copy.  The effect of such reports is to downplay the public’s sympathy for the victim, and to lessen the impact of the news of a murder on a wider readership or listening audience. It is a sometimes no-so-subtle means of blaming the victim for his own demise. Whether Kendall Hampton was actively working in the sex industry is beside the point.  He was a human being of worth, perceived to be different enough that someone acted out of hatred and killed him.  Whether the killer gets to own the story of his victim’s death will be up to a more informed public, and a media establishment less interested in sensationalism and more intent on stopping violence against Americans.

August 27, 2012 Posted by | African Americans, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Blame the victim, Character assassination, gender identity/expression, GLBTQ, gun violence, Hate Crime Statistics, Hate Crimes, LGBTQ, Matthew Shepard Act, Media Issues, Ohio, Social Justice Advocacy, transgender persons, transphobia, Unsolved LGBT Crimes | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off

President Obama Calls for Prayer, Solidarity, and Justice in Wake of Aurora Massacre

“We are committed to bringing whoever was responsible to justice, ensuring the safety of our people, and caring for those who have been wounded. As we do when confronted by moments of darkness and challenge, we must now come together as one American family. All of us must have the people of Aurora in our thoughts and prayers as they confront the loss of family, friends, and neighbors, and we must stand together with them in the challenging hours and days to come.”  ~ President Barack Obama

We at the Unfinished Lives Project join with Americans everywhere in support and solidarity for the families and loved ones of the fallen in Aurora, Colorado.

July 20, 2012 Posted by | Colorado, Condolences, gun violence, President Barack Obama, Vigils | , , , , , , , , | Comments Off

Teen Lesbian Latina Released From Hospital Care After Head Shot

Mary “Kristene” Chapa behind the wheel of her car. Released after three weeks in intensive care since a possible hate crime shooting, she assisted police in sketching the likeness of the man who attacked her and killed her lover [NBC Latino photo courtesy of Hilario Chapa].

Portland, Texas – Pink News, a well-connected LGBTQ news source from Great Britain, reports that the lesbian teen victim of a possible hate crime has been released from hospital three weeks after she was shot in the head.  Mary Kristene Chapa, 18, was attacked along with her girlfriend, Mollie Olgin, on June 22 at Violet Andrews State Park in the Texas Gulf Coast city of Portland. Olgin, who was also shot in the head, died at the scene.  Chapa, known to her family and friends as Kristene, was rushed to an intensive care facility at Christus Spohn Memorial Hospital where she was treated for grave injuries to her brain.

According to her brother, Hilario Chapa, Kristene is now in rehab and is “doing awesome.”  NBC Latino reports that Hilario, a tech sergeant in the U.S. Air Force Reserve, is astounded at the progress his little sister has made since someone attempted to kill her with a high caliber hand gun, and left her for dead in the tall grass of the state park. Hilario relates that in the last days of her hospital care, friends were allowed to visit her, and “she lit up” when she saw them. Kristene faces a long medical recovery, and just as challenging a recovery from the loss of her girlfriend, Mollie.  “She’s in neurological rehab, getting her speech and her way of thinking better,” Hilario told NBC Latino. “She also is in physical therapy to help strengthen her left side and mental therapy as well.”

Initially reluctant to let Kristene know that Mollie had not survived the attack, the family finally let her know that Mollie was dead. Police specialists and Mollie’s family were present to help break the news to Kristene. “With that support group we passed the info to my little sister,” Hilario said. “She was brokenhearted, very upset.”  Hilario went on to say how difficult it was to know how to comfort his sister. “They told us you have to let her cry. I didn’t want to tell her not to cry. But Mollie’s father (Mario) is a very good man, considering he lost his daughter.” Grateful for Mr. Olgin’s support for his sister, Hilario says, “He comes to visit her and when he does she gets emotional but he is supporting her. He wants to go visit her in rehab.”  

Portland Police released the information that Kristene was the previously unidentified eyewitness who aided them and the Texas Rangers in creating both the first and second renderings of the attacker’s likeness.  She was reportedly eager to help authorities apprehend the person who killed Mollie. The suspect is a 5-feet-8-inches tall, 14o pound Anglo male, with brown hair and a scruffy beard.  Kristene’s assistance with the sketch has prompted great public interest in finding the man who shattered the Portland community’s peace of mind, and set the South Texas LGBTQ community on guard against a possible hate crime.  Police authorities have repeatedly said that the attack did not appear random, but they have declined so far to support an anti-gay hate crime motive for the shooting. According to friends and family, Kristene and Mollie had been in a five-month love relationship at the time of the assault.

July 17, 2012 Posted by | Anti-LGBT hate crime, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, gay teens, GLBTQ, gun violence, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Latino and Latina Americans, Lesbian women, LGBTQ, Texas, Unsolved LGBT Crimes | , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,041 other followers

%d bloggers like this: