Puerto Rico police are investigating the deaths of a transgender man with multiple gunshot wounds on Jan. 9.
A motorist was driving on an unflattering part of the highway in Trujillo Alto, a municipality about 15 miles southeast of San Juan, when she crashed at something, according to local news website WAPA. Learned it was a corpse and informed the officer who identified the victim as Samuel Edmund Damien Valentin.
Police initially identified Damián, who identified his current home on Facebook as Juncos, less than 15 miles from Trujillo Alto.
Lt. Col. José Padín, homicide director for the nearby Carolina Crime Investigation Unit, told the San Juan Daily Star that Damián “had no identity and no family members could identify him in advance.”; Was able to identify him Instead, use his birth name, as the Star says. “His mother told me he always liked people to call him Samuel, Sam or Sammy when he was out on the road,” Padin said.
No motive or suspect was announced.
Damián is the seventh transgender person to have died of violence in Puerto Rico since February, according to the Transgender Law Center.
Pedro Julio Serrano, founder of LGBTQ advocacy group Puerto Rico Para Todas, said police were not doing enough to deal with “unprecedented waves of homosexual violence and sexual expressions that haunt us.”
“The police do not obey their procedures and have ignored them and minimize serious problems,” Serrano wrote on Monday in a statement on his website urging officers to “examine Damián’s hateful corners of murder”.
Puerto Rico’s hate crime laws encompass both sexual orientation and gender identity. But according to Metro Weekly, local prosecutors rarely apply.
After the corpses of two scorched trans women were found inside a burnt car in Humacao last spring, the FBI joined the investigation. In April, suspects Juan Carlos Pagán Bonilla, 21, and Sean Díaz de León, 19, became the first in Puerto Rico to face federal hate crimes.
The victims, Layla Peláez, 21, and Serena Angelique Velázquez, 32, were found just days after Penélope Díaz Ramírez, 31, was beaten and hanged in a men’s prison in Bayamon.
In February, Neulisa Luciano Ruiz, known as Alexa, was shot and killed in Toa Alta, a day after being told police to use a woman’s toilet in a McDonald’s. Ruiz’s attackers have reportedly posted a video of the shoot on social media.
A month later, 19-year-old transgender Yampi Méndez Arocho died in Moca after being shot twice in the face and two in the back. Mendez was reportedly assaulted by a woman just hours before filming.
The body of nursing student Michelle Michellyn Ramos Vargas was found in late September near a farm in southwestern San German. Vargas was shot repeatedly in the head and left on a lonely road.
In 2020, at least 44 transgender and non-transgender people were killed in the United States according to the human rights campaign, making it the deadliest year since the organization began tracking such deaths in 2013.
Damián is the second transgender person to die violently this year following the death of 28-year-old Tyianna Alexander, who was shot dead in Chicago on Jan. 6.
The Transgender Law Center mourns Damian’s death in a tweet on Wednesday, writing: “We are shocked by what you have experienced in the last moments. Transgender people deserve dignity and the opportunity to grow. ”
In the early hours of the New Year’s Day, Damián posted on Facebook about his excitement for the “coming new year”.
“[I’m] Thank you for all the experiences that have taught me how strong we are, ”he wrote,“ to life, good and evil, and for all the justice that is to come. ”
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