February 24, 2020 at 10:14 pm EST | by Michael K. Lavers
Homeless transgender woman brutally murdered in Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico Pulse nightclub victims, gay news, Washington Blade
A homeless transgender woman was brutally murdered in Toa Baja, Puerto Rico, on Feb. 24, 2020. (Image by Nicolas Raymond; courtesy Flickr)

A homeless transgender woman was brutally murdered in Puerto Rico early Monday.

Pedro Julio Serrano, founder of Puerto Rico Para Tod@s, a Puerto Rican LGBTQ advocacy groups, confirmed media reports that said the victim, who was known as Alexa, was killed in a park in Toa Baja, a municipality that is about 15 miles west of San Juan.

Serrano told the Washington Blade that police on Sunday night responded to a report Alexa was “peeping” on people in a public restroom. David Begnaud of CBS News reported the person who filed the complaint declined to press charges against Alexa after they learned she was homeless.

Alexa was killed a few hours after police responded to the report. Local media outlets indicate Alexa’s murder was captured on video.

“We’re urging authorities to investigate the hate angle in this horrific case,” Serrano told the Blade in a statement. “We don’t know all the details yet, but she was harassed, hunted and brutally killed.” 

“There’s no doubt that transphobia and intolerance had much to do in this case,” added Serrano. “Trans people are human beings that deserve to live with respect, peace and dignity.”

Investigators have yet to classify Alexa’s murder as a hate crime, but Gov. Wanda Vázquez in a tweet said “no motive will be discarded.” Vázquez also urged anyone with information to contact the Puerto Rico Police Department.

“The (Puerto Rico Police Department) will work with the diligence and sensibility that this case merits,” she said.

The Human Rights Campaign and Lambda Legal are among the groups that have condemned Alexa’s murder.

Puerto Rico’s hate crimes and nondiscrimination laws include both gender identity and sexual orientation. Anti-LGBTQ violence and discrimination are nevertheless commonplace in the U.S. commonwealth.

Serrano and other Puerto Rican LGBTQ activists with whom the Blade has spoken say Hurricane Maria, which devastated the island in September 2017, has made LGBTQ Puerto Ricans even more vulnerable to violence and discrimination.

“Transgender people and LGBTTIQ people are human beings like anyone else,” said Serrano in a press release. “We deserve respect for our lives and our identities without fear of being persecuted, prosecuted and executed.”

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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