A victim of a November mass stabbing at a homeless shelter in San Jose, Calif., has been identified as Kimberly Susan Fial, a transgender woman who volunteered there.
Fial, 55, was one of five people stabbed in the November 22 attack at Grace Baptist Church, The Mercury News reports. She and one other person died. The report of her death means that at least 41 trans people have died by violence in the U.S. in 2020, the most in any year since media and activists began tracking these deaths.
The Santa Clara County Medical Examiner-Coroner’s Office identified Fial last week. The other person who died, identified earlier, was John Paulson, 45.
Fernando Jesus Lopez, 32, is charged with two counts of murder and three counts of attempted murder, according to The Mercury News. He had been a shelter client and volunteer for some time, and the night of the attack he was helping Fial set up mats for clients to sleep on.
But then, police say, he stabbed Paulson with a chef’s knife, then another man, then Fial. Another shelter volunteer tried to assist Fial, and he was stabbed as well. The fifth victim told police Lopez attacked him the restroom. Officers arrested Lopez about 12 minutes later. Shelter volunteers said he originally came across as thoughtful and helpful, but recently he had seemed paranoid. He had a history of drug use, and he may have gone back to using meth, they said. He is being held without bond.
Fellow shelter volunteers recalled Fial warmly. She first came to the Grace Baptist shelter during the summer as a client, or guest, the term used by the facility. She quickly pitched in and became a valued volunteer, considered an honorary staff member. She would prepare and serve meals, hand out coffee, and more. She was a military veteran and had worked in restaurant kitchens.
“My heart always felt warm when I saw her when I got into the building,” shelter manager Phil Mastrocola told The Mercury News. “One, I’m thinking, OK, I know everything’s under control. And two, she’s just a good person.”
She was also known for her sense of humor. “She had a twinkle in her eye. This little smile,” said outreach worker Shaunn Cartwright. “It was kind of like, ‘What are you up to?’”
She and other victims of the stabbing were memorialized at a candlelight vigil December 1. “My greatest hope out of all of this is that we all will unify around a commitment to creating ways to make changes, to make things better,” Mastrocola said at the event. “And curing the condition of houselessness.”
Lindsey Clark, associate director of the Human Rights Campaign’s Transgender Justice Initiative, released a statement mourning Fial: “At least five transgender women were killed in November alone. This violence is unacceptable and it must be stopped. By all accounts, Kimberly was a kind person who was treasured by her community and who gave back to those around her. Her death is a tragedy, as is every death of a trans or gender-nonconforming person. We call on everyone, from grassroots organizers to those at the highest levels, to take action to end this violence and protect the transgender and gender-nonconforming community.”