Puerto Rico’s governor last week condemned the killing of a transgender woman ― whose death ignited a dialogue about transphobia on the island ― as a hate crime.
The body of Alexa Negrón Luciano, who was also known as Neulisa Luciano Ruiz, was found Feb. 24 on the side of a road in Toa Baja, Puerto Rico. The 29-year-old had multiple gunshot wounds.
According to CBS News, Alexa’s death came hours after a customer at a local McDonald’s had called the police, saying she’d been using the women’s restroom there. The patron also accused Alexa of putting a mirror under a bathroom stall to spy on people, though law enforcement found no proof of that.
A short video circulated on social media appears to show Alexa’s attackers, identified only as three 18-year-old men, following her in a car. They repeatedly misgender and taunt her before gunshots can be heard.
Puerto Rico Gov. Wanda Vázquez said Feb. 25 that while no suspects had thus far been arrested, the investigation was making progress.
“Everything points to this being a hate crime, and that’s how it will be treated,” she told The Associated Press.
A number of LGBTQ rights organizations, including the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) and Lambda Legal, have condemned the killing.
“This is a horrifying crime that must be investigated with the utmost thoroughness and care,” Tori Cooper, who is HRC’s director of community engagement for the Transgender Justice Initiative, said. “She had dreams, hopes, hobbies and did not deserve to have her life taken from her.”
“HRC has heard that Ruiz was experiencing homelessness, further highlighting the ways a toxic mix of transphobia and misogyny conspire to put the transgender community at risk of extreme violence,” Cooper added.
Calling anti-transgender violence “completely unacceptable,” Lambda Legal officials wrote on social media, “Puerto Rican law enforcement authorities must expeditiously and thoroughly investigate this horrific crime, including its posting on social media.”
A day after Alexa’s death, Democratic presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren offered her condolences on Twitter.
“We must use every tool we have to end it and protect trans women of color,” she wrote.
In a Feb. 27 appearance on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon,” reggaeton superstar Bad Bunny performed while wearing a T-shirt that read “They killed Alexa, not a man in a skirt” in Spanish — a reference to Luciano’s death.
A Puerto Rican transgender woman named Maria told CBS in an interview that aired Monday she’s hoping to use Alexa’s death to educate others on the island about the issues the trans community continues to face.
“We might not be killed, but a lot of us live feeling like we are dead. We don’t even have access to identify ourselves,” the 27-year-old said. “We lose respect from our families, from our friends. We have a hard time going to the bathroom, we have a hard time getting a job, we have a hard time building a life in general.”
According to HRC statistics, Alexa is thought to be the second violent death of a transgender or gender-nonconforming person in the U.S. thus far this year. Last year, the organization tracked at least 26 such deaths.