Metro Weekly

Oklahoma transgender activist shot to death while working as a taxi driver

Friends of Dustin Parker have started a fundraising campaign on Facebook to help his family

Dustin Parker – Photo: Facebook.

An Oklahoma transgender activist was fatally shot while working as a taxi driver on New Year’s Day.

Dustin Parker, 25, a founding member of Oklahomans for Equality McAlester, was found dead in the driver’s seat of a taxi in downtown McAlester, Okla., around 6:30 a.m. on Wednesday, according to the McAlester Police Department.

Police say the electric taxi had been hit by gunfire multiple times.

“We’ve still got investigators out running down leads right now,” Capt. Kevin Hearod of the McAlester Police Department told Tulsa World. “[Parker] was just a working man, making a living for his family, and he didn’t get to come home.”

Brian West, a member of Oklahomans for Equality McAlester, created a Facebook fundraiser to benefit Parker’s wife and four children.

West wrote on Facebook that Parker’s wife is a stay-at-home mom and has no income, and that the family is facing a number of bills and other expenses, and may also need financial help to stay in their home.

“Dustin was a steadfast friend, an amazing husband and father, and generous to a fault,” West said in a statement to Tulsa World. “He loved fiercely, worked tirelessly, and took on life with so much hope and enthusiasm that his presence brightened all of our lives. His bright, young life was taken far too early.”

Hearod says police haven’t found any evidence to indicate that Parker was targeted because of his gender identity, but that police are “not taking anything off the table” with regard to motive at this point.

At least 24 transgender or gender-nonconforming people were killed in 2019, according to the Human Rights Campaign — continuing a disturbing increase in violent incidents directed at transgender people in recent years.

Police reported recovering shell casings at the scene, but tracking dogs were unable to pick up a trail.

They also reportedly spoke to people who heard the gunshots, but some people wrote them off as people celebrating the New Year until police arrived to find Parker’s body later that morning.

Read more:

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John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com

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