A homeless transgender woman was shot to death in Puerto Rico early Monday, just 12 hours after she was reported to police for using a women’s restroom at a McDonald’s.
Alexa Negrón Luciano, also known as Neulisa Luciano Ruiz and Alexa Ruiz, was killed in the town of Toa Baja, NBC News reports. A video purporting to show the fatal attack was uploaded to YouTube; voices can be heard saying “We are going to shoot you up” and “You bet I am going to go and shoot him,” followed by the sound of at least 10 shots being fired.
Police confirmed Ruiz’s death Tuesday and said they had been informed that four teenagers may have been involved in the crime, according to NBC. At least one suspect has been arrested, Univision reports.
Her death came after someone had posted photos on social media of her being questioned by police about her use of the women’s restroom, The New York Times reports. She was accused of peeking at another woman in the facility.
The video of her shooting, if authentic, indicates that her assailants “were comfortable enough to record themselves, a fact that community activists said underscores the impunity homophobic attackers feel when committing such crimes,” the Times notes.
Puerto Rico Gov. Wanda Vázquez, who was previously the territory’s top prosecutor, said Ruiz’s death could be investigated as a hate crime. “This is violence against women, without a doubt,” she told the Times. Puerto Rico’s hate-crimes law includes attacks motivated by on a victim’s gender identity, but it is rarely used.
Puerto Rican LGBTQ activist Pedro Julio Serrano called on police and prosecutors to treat the murder as a hate crime. The video shows it was “motivated by intolerance,” he wrote on his website.
He said the intolerance is fomented largely by conservative Christians. “We must denounce the hate speech of the fundamentalist groups that have promoted a climate where they prosecute and persecute a trans person for the mere fact of using a bathroom,” he wrote.
Major LGBTQ organizations commented on the case as well. “This is a horrifying crime that must be investigated with the utmost thoroughness and care,” said a statement issued by Tori Cooper, director of community engagement for the Human Rights Campaign’s Transgender Justice Initiative. Cooper added, “HRC has heard that Ruiz was experiencing homelessness, further highlighting the ways a toxic mix of transphobia and misogyny conspire to put the transgender community at risk of extreme violence.”
And Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren, who has often called attention to violence against trans people, tweeted about the crime.