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Was This Black Gay Louisiana Man's Murder a Hate Crime?

Ja’Quarius Taylor

Relatives of a gay Black teenager shot to death in Louisiana say they’re not satisfied with local authorities’ probe of the murder and want the FBI to investigate it as a hate crime.

Ja’Quarius Taylor, 17, of Varnado, in the southeastern part of the state, was found dead January 12 in a wooded area near his home, New Orleans TV station WWL reports. Police said he’d been shot in the head, and some accounts said he’d been tied up.

An attorney for his family released a statement this week. “The family has a legal team to help ensure a full, fair, and just investigation is happening,” the statement said. “We hope the FBI will get involved because of the perceived conflicts of interest and family relations the local sheriff may have. We’re looking at this as a hate crime based on the race and sexual orientation of Ja’Quarius Taylor.” It did not specify what the perceived conflicts were.

The Washington Parish Sheriff’s Department denied there were any conflicts of interest and said its personnel are working closely with the FBI and other agencies, according to WWL. The department is treating Taylor’s death as a homicide and will consider it a hate crime if the evidence warrants, officials said.

The FBI issued a statement Wednesday, stopping short of saying it was actually involved in the probe: “We are aware of the incident in Washington Parish and are presently assessing the circumstances surrounding this event. If information comes to light of a potential federal civil rights violation, the FBI is prepared to investigate. The FBI takes seriously all acts or threats of violence and is committed to investigating crimes that are potentially hate-motivated and we continue to work with all our community partners.”

Unlike many states in the Deep South, Louisiana has a hate-crimes law that covers crimes based on sexual orientation (although not gender identity), along with race and other factors. Federal law covers sexual orientation, gender identity, race, sex, and numerous other characteristics.

A $5,000 reward has been offered for information leading to an arrest and indictment in Taylor’s death. Tipsters are asked to call Crime Stoppers at (504) 822-1111, and can do so anonymously. Tips are also accepted online.

National LGBTQ activists have responded to the crime too.

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