Metro Weekly

Puerto Rican activists urge investigation of suspicious LGBTQ deaths

Puerto Rico Para Tod@s also criticized police for failing to identify victims as LGBTQ

Samuel Edmund Damián Valentín, a trans man, was shot to death on Jan. 9, 2021 – Photo: Facebook.

LGBTQ activists in Puerto Rico are calling on law enforcement authorities to properly investigate three suspicious deaths in which the victims are believed to be LGBTQ people.

On January 9, a woman was driving down Highway 181 in Trujillo Alto around 3:25 a.m., when she hit an object on the pavement, but could not see due to the lack of lighting. She stopped her car and went to check, and discovered a body suffering from multiple gunshot wounds.

The person was described as 180 pounds, about 5’2″, with short brown hair, wearing black shorts, a black coat, and long black stockings.

Police who responded to the scene could not immediately ascribe a motive for the shooting. The case remains under investigation, according to Metro.

Police initially described the victim as a woman. But later, family members, friends, and local LGBTQ activists, including the group Puerto Rico Para Tod@s identified the victim as Samuel Edmund Damián Valentín, a transgender man.

“One of the most serious problems we have with the Police and the Department of Justice is that they do not identify LGBTTIQ+ people in their incident reports,” Pedro Julio Serrano, a spokesperson for Puerto Rico Para Tod@s, said in a statement.

“Almost every time an LGBTTIQ + person is murdered, it is the community itself who identifies it. Police and Justice fail to comply with their own protocols [for dealing with LGBTTIQ victims] and it even seems that they want to ignore, make invisible, and minimize the serious problem of the wave of homophobic and transphobic violence that haunts us like never before.”

The group has also called on police to investigate the suspicious deaths of 42-year-old Edwin Matías González, who died on Jan. 7 in Lares, and a man — yet to be identified — whose body was found half-naked on the beach near Vega Baja on Jan. 5. Activists believe that both men may be members of the LGBTTIQ+ community.

See also: Nursing student is the sixth transgender person killed in Puerto Rico in 2020

“If these two death are found to be LGBTTIQ+ people and that they were murdered, they would already be fourteen victims of the wave of violence,” Serrano said, noting that at least 12 LGBTTIQ+ people have been killed in the past two years. “This has to stop and the government has to act immediately to tackle this crisis.”

Other sexual and gender minorities killed on the island during that two-year period include: Kevin Fret, an openly gay rapper and trap artist in January 2019; Carlos Morales Robin and Luis Díaz, two men killed on separate occasions near the Monument to El Jíbaro in 2019; and Emilio Colón, a 79-year-old man killed in his home in Caguas.

Other victims include Alexa Negrón Luciano, a homeless transgender woman whose death was videotaped and shared on social media after she was falsely accused of trying to peer into a stall inside a women’s restroom at a McDonald’s in Toa Alta last February. Javier Morales, a gay man whose cause of death has not been determined, was found naked in Salinas the same month.

Yampi Méndez Arocho, a 19-year-old transgender man, was shot to death in Moca five hours after he was allegedly assaulted by a woman last March.

Two trans women, Serena Angelique Velázquez and Layla Peláez, were found in a burned-out car by the side of the road last April, and their alleged assailants are being prosecuted by federal authorities. Penélope Díaz, a 31-year-old transgender woman, was beaten and hanged to death at the Bayamon correctional complex. And Michelle Ramos, a transgender nursing student, was shot multiple times in the head in San German in October.

Bryan Núñez Mártir, an LGBTQ man, was stabbed to death and left along the highway in Aguadilla in November.

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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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