Metro Weekly

Transgender woman identified as victim in San Antonio barbershop slaying

Helle Jae O'Regan is the eleventh transgender person killed in the United States this year

helle jae o'regan, trans, transgender, san antonio
Helle Jae O’Regan – Photo: HRC.

A transgender woman was fatally stabbed to death while working at a barbershop in San Antonio last Wednesday.

Helle Jae O’Regan, 20, was inside the Diesel Barbershop, in northwest San Antonio, helping two other employees prepare for the shop’s post-COVID-19 reopening on May 8, when a man knocked on the door, saying he wanted to make a future appointment.

One of the employees unlocked the door, let him in and took down his name, but the man became angry after being asked to submit a form of payment.

The man walked outside the barbershop, only to return moments later with a backpack, a gun, and a knife. Footage from a surveillance camera shows the man threatening all three employees with the weapons, police told San Antonio NBC affiliate WOAI-TV.

According to police, the man then walked the employees to the back of the shop and placed O’Regan in a choke hold until she lost consciousness.

The other two employees ran out after Campbell turned to them, stabbing one several times while the other emerged unscathed. The employee who was stabbed was able to call for help at a nearby restaurant.

After the two others escaped, the man allegedly turned to O’Regan’s unconscious body and stabbed her repeatedly, killing her. He then fled the scene.

Police later arrested and charged 42-year-old Damion Campbell with murder. They told WOAI-TV that his name was displayed on a pop-up window on the barbershop’s computer when they arrived on scene.

The shop, which has delayed its opening until May 15, has since turned into a makeshift memorial to O’Regan, with friends and fellow LGBTQ community members leaving flowers and candles outside.

“Every time I saw her, she smiled. She’d do anything for you,” Luke Tyler, a friend of O’Regan’s, told San Antonio ABC affiliate KSAT-TV. “She was a caring person. I never saw her in a bad mood.

“Being trans is so hard, and her life was hard, but she lived like it was the best day of her life every day,” Tyler said.

See also: Transgender woman stabbed to death in Missouri

Robert Salcido, Jr., the executive director of Pride Center San Antonio, issued a statement mourning the loss of O’Regan, who had been an outspoken advocate for LGBTQ rights, prison reform, and the decriminalization of sex work.

“We are disheartened to hear of a loss of a community member, especially a transgender woman, who are all too often faced with severe and deadly violence,” Salcido said.

“We are saddened to hear of the news about Helle O’Regan’s death,” Emmett Schelling, the executive director for the Transgender Education Network of Texas, said in a statement. “We mourn for Helle’s life being cut so prematurely, but take comfort in hearing how much joy she brought to those who knew, loved and accepted her fully as her authentic self.”

The Human Rights Campaign noted that O’Regan is the eleventh known transgender or gender-nonconforming person to be killed this year in the United States, and the sixth transgender woman to be killed in the past five weeks. 

“For the past several weeks, we have learned of the violent deaths of transgender Americans at a rate that should be a shock and horror to every single person. We must all ask ourselves today: ‘What am I doing to ensure a world where a person’s gender identity is not a potential death sentence?'” Tori Cooper, HRC’s Director of Community Engagement for the Transgender Justice Initiative, said in a statement.

“The Human Rights Campaign is standing with Helle’s family and friends in mourning today. Her death further underscores the dire and urgent need to end violence and discrimination against transgender people — and especially against transgender women — now.”

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