More than a year after a transgender woman was stabbed and left for dead in central Fresno, police are saying little about the investigation into her murder.
Local transgender advocates say Casey or “K.C.” Haggard had started transitioning from male to female when she was murdered July 23, 2015. Haggard, 66, had not come out to family and friends.
Advocates held a vigil and march Friday night in Haggard’s memory. They walked along North Blackstone Avenue near Fresno City College to East Cornell Avenue, where she died in front of a tattoo parlor.
Surveillance video from a nearby tattoo shop shows Haggard, with long hair, a knee-length dress and cardigan, walk up to the passenger side of an SUV and lean down to talk. Less than a minute later, the driver reaches over and stabs her in the throat before driving off. Haggard waves to passing cars for help, but none stop.
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Police found Haggard slumped against a sidewalk pole.
On Monday, Fresno police Lt. Burke Farrah said the investigation is open and active, but he didn’t give specific details. Police previously described the suspect as a Hispanic man in his 30s, around 5 feet 9 inches tall and 160 pounds, with tattoos on both arms and short, dark hair. The man drove a silver Saturn SUV with a moon roof.
At the vigil Friday evening, around 30 advocates remembered a meek and reserved person who didn’t deserve to die. They called for increased support of transgender people and addressed the discrimination and disproportionate violence their community faces. Their signs read, “Stop killing us” and “Justice for Casey.” Across the street, a black-and-white illustration of Haggard holding a candle was hung on a signpost.
She was one of our own.
Zoyer Zyndel, Trans-E-Motion
Zoyer Zyndel, chairman of the support group Trans-E-Motion, met Haggard several times. He said she called him wanting to know where and when support meetings were.
“She stated she was beginning her own process and wanted to meet other transgender people,” he said. “It was a very routine call. We get calls like that all the time.”
Transgender advocates said Haggard created a female Facebook page under the name K.c. Haggard shortly before her death. Another profile exists under the first name Kenton, and profiles under both names list Chapman College in Orange County, where Haggard graduated.
Haggard attended three or four support group meetings. Zyndel said she would greet everyone but was otherwise quiet. He gave her a ride to the bus stop one or two weeks before her death.
“She was one of our own,” he said.
Zyndel read a statement from Haggard’s brother Gerald Haggard, 64, who didn’t know Casey under female pronouns or as a transgender woman.
“K.C., (Kenton Craig), Haggard should have been able to walk the streets of Fresno with confidence and whatever clothing he preferred. His murder has become a symbol of the prejudice and violence toward the transgender community. For whatever benefit that is for equality, his family still misses and mourns for Kenton, K.C. His gentle soul is gone from us and his murderer is still among us.”
Trans people are at high risk of suicide and many suffer rejection by family and friends, discrimination, victimization, violence or death, says the Williams Institute, a think tank at the UCLA School of Law that specializes in sexual orientation and gender identity law and policy.
Advocates said Haggard was the 11th of 21 transgender women killed in the U.S. last year – the deadliest year for transgender people on record. According to the national LGBT group GLAAD, 2016 is on track to be worse, with 18 deaths reported so far. But GLAAD says these numbers don’t include transgender people whose deaths were not reported due to misgendering in police reports, news stories and by the victim’s family.
The FBI has been working with Fresno police to determine whether Haggard’s slaying was a hate crime. Last year was the first time the FBI released statistics for reported hate crimes based on gender identity.
On Monday, Gerald Haggard said he last called police on Casey Haggard’s birthday, April 4. He said he’s cautiously hopeful that the murder will be solved.
K.C., (Kenton Craig), Haggard should have been able to walk the streets of Fresno with confidence and whatever clothing he preferred.
Gerald Haggard, brother
Gerald Haggard said he appreciates the transgender community’s vigils and desire to keep his brother’s memory alive.
“His tragic death brings light to that a lot of transgender people – or anybody who looks different on street – don’t just face persecution, they face danger.”
But, Gerald Haggard said, “that he has brought a face to the cause doesn’t make up for losing him. It doesn’t come close.”