Above: Matthew Angelo Spampinato with his cousin Morgan Hanners's daughter, Athena
Matthew Angelo Spampinato, a 21-year-old transgender man, was killed in a hit-and-run car crash February 9 in New Castle, Del., making him the sixth trans person known to have died by violence in the U.S. this year.
Spampinato was walking home from work at a Starbucks when he was killed, the Delaware News Journal reports. He was hit along the shoulder of Route 273. Police have yet to identify the driver.
Spampinato grew up in Georgia, in an area about an hour from Atlanta, and moved to Delaware last year. He began working as a barista at a new Starbucks in late 2021, and he was liked and respected by his coworkers and customers.
“He was always so selfless,” colleague Samantha Strothmann told the News Journal. “He would always ask how everybody was doing even when he wasn’t having a good day himself.” Customers described him as “a breath of fresh air” and someone with “a smile that could turn a day around,” the paper reports.
Spampinato had known he was trans since he was 13, according to his social media posts. He began hormone treatment January 31, 2021, after four years of seeking the therapy. “I’m glad I didn’t give up,” he wrote on Instagram.
His last Instagram post consisted of photos of his time in Delaware, noting, “I’ve been enjoying experiencing fall and winter in a new state for the first time.” He had wanted to leave the South at some point, and he liked Delaware so much on a visit last summer that he canceled his return flight.
His cousin Morgan Hanners, who had a close relationship with him, said he deserves to be remembered as more than a victim. “I want people to think of him as a human being who had a family [and] who had people that loved him,” she told the News Journal. “I would give anything just to be able to see him.”
Family members set up a GoFundMe page to raise money to reward anyone who can bring Spampinato’s killer to justice. It deadnamed him, as did the police report. “It was not an easy road for him to come out being transgender and be the amazing person he is,” one anonymous donor commented on the page. “He went by the pronouns He/Him. Please respect that when talking about him.” Some members of his family did not accept him, but those who did loved him “unconditionally,” the donor continued.
“Matthew’s death is tragic, but the one shining light was that he lived his life surrounded by people who loved and respected him,” Tori Cooper, the Human Rights Campaign’s director of community engagement for its Transgender Justice Initiative, said in a press release. He was living his dream with a healthy support system. With all of the challenges trans and nonbinary people face in society, including a disregard for our lives, it is so important for allies to celebrate and uplift our community. May Matthew never be forgotten by those who loved him and those who hold our community dear.”