Just days after a transgender woman was killed in Chicago, a transgender man was killed in Puerto Rico and a transgender woman was found dead in Detroit.
Samuel Edmund Damián Valentín was shot and subsequently struck by a motorist in Puerto Rico on January 9, while Natasha Keianna was found dead in a white Saturn SUV in Detroit on January 12.
Puerto Rican LGBTQ activist Pedro Julio Serrano told Gay City News that local authorities are investigating Valentín’s case, but there are few details about a possible motive or suspects. He noted that while some people online believe Valentín was targeted for writing controversial social media posts, Valentín’s mother has denounced these rumors.
“[She] said don’t jump to conclusions and do not say that this is something that he deserved based on what he wrote,” Serrano said.
WAPA, a television station in San Juan, reported that Valentín had been shot multiple times prior to being struck by the vehicle. Police and the media misgendered the victim in earlier reports, which further complicates the case. Serrano underscored the point that authorities still misgender victims despite training and guidelines advocating against it.
“It’s re-victimizing a whole community,” Serrano said. “Their life, their identities are not important and they can be easily dismissed.”
Social media posts indicated that Valentín was vocal about his trans identity. Serrano said Valentín’s mother, who is a pastor, took to Facebook to shed light on her son’s death, though she misgendered him. Still, Serrano believes investigators must take the possibility of a hate crime into consideration.
“They don’t follow the hate crime protocols that tell them any crime committed against an LGBTQ person needs to be investigated as a hate crime until there’s proof that it’s not,” Serrano said.
At least a dozen LGBTQ people in Puerto Rico have been murdered in the last two years, Serrano said. Over the past year, he said at least seven of those killings involved a transgender person. Five of these murders targeted transgender women, while two killings affected transgender men. Serrano is urging Puerto Rico to address the issue by declaring a state of emergency.
Meanwhile, back in Detroit, Keianna — who was just 37 when she died — had been missing since Christmas and was last seen leaving a motel, according to Fox2Detroit.
The Detroit Police Department told Gay City News there were no signs of trauma or foul play, though the state’s medical examiner’s office has not announced her official cause of death.
The victim’s mother, who was identified by the Detroit Free Press as Bernetha Shelton, said Keianna was “absolutely” targeted because she’s transgender, according to Fox2Detroit.
She’s also accusing the police department of failing to act with a sense of urgency in the case.
“A week — my baby sat there in the car a week and froze to death,” Keianna’s mother told FOX2Detroit. “This lady kept calling Detroit police and they never came out.”
The cases followed the murder of 28-year-old out trans woman Davarea Alexander in Chicago on January 6. The deadly start to the year comes after the HRC tracked the worst year on record for murders targeting transgender and non-binary individuals, with most of those killings targeting trans women of color.
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