A transgender man driving a taxi in McAlester, Okla., was fatally shot early New Year’s Day.
The body of Dustin Parker, 25, was found in the driver’s seat of the taxi about 6:30 a.m. Wednesday, the Tulsa World reports. Several gunshots had been fired at the cab.
“We’ve still got investigators out running down leads right now,” Capt. Kevin Hearod of the McAlester Police Department told the World. “[Parker was] just a working man, making a living for his family, and he didn’t get to come home.”
Parker, who leaves a wife, Regina, and four children, was a founding member of the McAlester chapter of Oklahomans for Equality, an LGBTQ rights group. The statewide organization posted a remembrance on its Facebook page, saying it has lowered its transgender flag to “honor his memory and contributions to the LGBTQIA+ movement in Oklahoma.” His death is the first known homicide of a transgender person in 2020.
Rover Taxi manager Brian West has organized a Facebook fundraiser to help Parker’s family. “Rover Taxi is devastated at the loss of a member of our Rover family,” West posted on the site. “Dustin was a steadfast friend, an amazing husband and father, and generous to a fault. 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. Please keep his loved ones in your thoughts as we all try to pull together to get through these difficult times. Dustin will be missed, but never forgotten.”
The Oklahoma chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, part of Everytown for Gun Safety, also issued a statement on Parker’s death, noting that most of the homicides of trans Americans in the past few years have been the result of gun violence.
“Dustin Parker should still be alive,” said Hannah Parker, a volunteer with the Oklahoma chapter. “My heart goes out to his wife, to his four children, to his friends, to his fellow members of Oklahomans for Equality, and to every trans, nonbinary, gender-nonconforming child and adult in this state who heard this news and felt a little less safe. Dustin Parker got to see the start of this decade, but he should have gotten to see a lot more.” (Hannah Parker is not related to Dustin.)
Police have yet to find any evidence suggesting that Dustin Parker’s shooting was motivated by his gender identity. “Right now, it doesn’t look that way,” Hearod told the World. “But obviously, we’re not taking anything off the table. … We don’t have anything indicating that right now.”
Constant reports of violence against our community are difficult to read, especially as we continue to face historic rates. If you or someone you know is experiencing violence, you can reach out to the Anti-Violence Project’s free bilingual (English/Spanish) national hotline at (212) 714-1141 or report online for support.