Activists: 2 Killed in Puerto Rico Were Transgender Women

Apr 23, 2020
5:16 PM

Puerto Rico’s Capitol building (Brad Clinesmith)

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — Activists said Thursday that the two bodies found inside a charred car in southeast Puerto Rico were of transgender women, marking four such deaths in the past two months.

The women were identified as 21-year-old Layla Peláez and 32-year-old Serena Angelique Velázquez, according to the Broad Committee for the Search for Equity.

“They are hunting us,” Pedro Julio Serrano, a spokesman for the group, said in a phone interview.

Authorities found the car before dawn on Wednesday in the coastal town of Humacao after receiving a 911 call.

Capt. Teddy Morales, who oversees criminal investigations in that district, said in a phone interview that police are investigating whether it was a hate crime and how exactly the two victims were killed. No one has been arrested.

The killings come a month after a 19-year-old transsexual man identified as Angélica Marie Méndez was fatally shot in the western town of Moca and two months after the fatal shooting of a person identified as Neulisa Luciano Ruiz, which Puerto Rico’s governor said was likely a hate crime. The victim’s body was found in the northern town of Toa Baja after a video was made public in which at least two men are heard mocking and threatening a person believed to be the victim followed by gunfire.

“We trans people deserve to live in peace, equality and freedom. Enough of so much hate,” said Ivana Fred with the Broad Committee for the Search for Equity.

Overall, eight people from the LGBTQ community have been killed in Puerto Rico in the past 15 months, Serrano said. None of the cases have been solved.