Puerto Rican police are investigating the death of a transgender man found with multiple gunshots. 9 January.
According to local news site WAPA, a motorist in Trujillo Alto, a municipality about 15 miles from San Juan, was driving on an uncontrolled section of the highway. When she got out of the car, she realized that it was a dead body and reported it to the authorities, who identified the victim as Samuel Edmund Damian Valentin.
Police initially mistook Damian, who listed his current home on Facebook as Juno, less than 15 miles from Trujillo Alto.
Lt. Jose Paddin, the homeowner director of the Criminal Investigation Unit in nearby Carolina, told the San Juan Daily Star that Damian had “no identification nor family members who were previously able to identify him.” His mother and stepfather were eventually able to identify his body, but according to the Star, used his birth name. “Her mother told me that she would always like others, calling her Samuel, Sam, or Sammy when she got out on the streets.”
No motive or suspect has been declared.
According to the Transgender Law Center, Damian is the seventh known transgender person to die from violence in Puerto Rico since last February.
Pedro Julio Serrano, founder of the LGBTQ advocacy group Puerto Rico Para Todas, said the police “are not good enough to address the wave of homophobic and transphobic violence that prey on us as before.”
“Police have failed to follow their protocols and ignore, fail and mitigate a serious problem,” Serrano said in a statement on his website on Monday, calling on authorities to “investigate the angle of incest in murder” did.
Puerto Rico’s hate crime law includes both sexual orientation and gender identity, but, according to Metro Weekly, local prosecutors rarely enforce them.
The burnt remains of two trans women were found inside a burned-out car in Humacao last spring after the FBI stepped in to join the investigation. In April, the suspects, Juan Carlos Pagan Bonilla, 21, and Sean Dez de Leon, 19, became the first people in Puerto Rico to face federal hate crime charges.
The victims, Laila Pelez, 21, and Serena Angelique Velzquez, 32 – were beaten to death by another transgender woman, Penelope Diaz Ramirez, 31, in a male prison in Beman.
In February, Nulissa Luciano Ruiz, also known as Alexa, was shot in Toa Alta the day after she was reported to police for using the women’s bathroom at McDonald’s. Ruiz’s attackers have reportedly posted a video of the shooting on social media.
The following month, Yampi Mendez Ercho, a 19-year-old transgender man, died in Moka after being shot twice in the face and twice in the back. Mendez was allegedly attacked by a woman just hours before the shooting.
The body of nursing school student Michelle Michelle Ramos Vargas was found near a farm in San German in the southwest in late September. Vargas was repeatedly shot in the head and left on a different road.
According to the Human Rights Campaign, at least 44 transgender and gender-unnatural people were murdered in the United States in 2020, as the organization began tracking such deaths in 2013.
Damian is already the second known trans man to die of violence this year after the death of 28-year-old Tiana Alexander, shot and killed in Chicago on 6 January.
Transgender Law Center grieves Damien’s death In a tweet Wednesday, writing, “We are horrified by what you experience in your last moments. Trans men deserve dignity and a chance to flourish. “
In the early hours of New Year’s morning, Damián posted on Facebook about his excitement for the “coming New Year”.
“[I’m] Thankful for all the experiences that have taught me how strong we really are, ”he wrote. “For life, for good and evil, and for all justice to come.”
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