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2 Men Plead Guilty to Hate Crime Against Trans Woman Hours Before Her Murder

2 Men Plead Guilty to Hate Crime Against Trans Woman Hours Before Her Murder

2 Men Plead Guilty to Hate Crime Attack on Trans Woman in Puerto Rico Hours Before Her Murder
COURTESY FBI

The men harassed and shot Alexa Neulisa Luciano with paintballs; she was found shot dead the following day.

Two men in Puerto Rico pleaded guilty to federal hate crime and obstruction of justice charges for their 2020 videotaped attack on a transgender woman experiencing homelessness hours after she used the women’s restroom at a local fast-food restaurant. The lifeless body of Alexa Neulisa Luciano was found riddled with bullets the following day.

According to a statement from the Department of Justice, in the early morning hours of February 24, 2020, Jordany Rafael Laboy-Garcia, Christian Yamaurie Rivera-Otero, and former co-defendant Anthony Steven Lobos-Ruiz were driving in Toa Baja, Puerto Rico, when they recognized Luciano standing under a tent on a roadside. The trio had seen pictures on social media of Luciano being questioned by police after she used the women’s restroom at a local McDonald’s. The trio harassed Luciano due to her gender identity, then returned with paint guns which they used to assault her repeatedly. The trio videotaped the attacks and distributed them to others, but later attempted to delete the videos to hide their involvement with Luciano.

The next day, Luciano was shot at least 10 times with a handgun. Video allegedly showing the murder was also posted to social media. Her murder remains unsolved to this day despite a $50,000 reward offered by the FBI.

“The defendants are being held accountable for assaulting a transgender woman because of her gender identity and then trying to obstruct an investigation into that assault,” Kristen Clarke, assistant attorney general of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, said. “Acts of violence against LGBTQI+ people have no place in our society today. As we mark 25 years since the death of Matthew Shepard, the Justice Department remain steadfast in its commitment to investigate and prosecute those who target LGBTQI+ people with acts of violence.”

“To assault an innocent victim who posed no threat to the defendants for no other reason than her gender identity is reprehensible behavior that will not be tolerated,” said U.S. Attorney W. Stephen Muldrow for the District of Puerto Rico. “The Justice Department will continue to vigorously defend the rights of all people, regardless of their gender identity, to be free from hate-fueled violence.”

The murder shocked Puerto Rico and the LGBTQ+ community and allies.

“This is a horrifying crime that must be investigated with the utmost thoroughness and care. This victim, who has now been identified as Neulisa Luciano Ruiz, was a human being, a member of a community, a friend and family member,” Tori Cooper, director of community engagement for the transgender justice initiative for the Human Rights Campaign, said in a statement in 2020. “She had dreams, hopes, hobbies and did not deserve to have her life taken from her.”

“I’m heartsick for Alexa and her loved ones,” U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a Democrat from Massachusetts posted to X, formerly known as Twitter, also in 2020.

“This violence is completely unacceptable,” Lambda Legal posted. “Everyone deserves to be respected for who they are and treated with dignity and respect!”

Sentencing for Laboy-Garcia and Rivera-Otero is scheduled for November 10. Lobos-Ruiz pleaded guilty to committing a hate crime in August of last year and was sentenced to 33 months in prison in November.

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