Police have not ruled out a hate crime in the early-morning slaying of a transgender woman who was shot multiple times in Fresno, Police Chief Jerry Dyer said Wednesday, adding that he has directed detectives to solve the case “very quickly.”
The 34-year-old victim, identified Wednesday afternoon as Imer Eliu Alvarado of Fresno, was found on North Fourth Street just south of East Belmont Avenue after the police ShotSpotter system reported multiple gunshots fired at 2:59 a.m. (The Fresno County Sheriff’s Office said it identified Alvarado as a man based on available documentation, such as a driver’s license or birth certificate.)
Officers arrived 4 minutes later and found the victim where an alley connects with Fourth.
She was rushed to Community Regional Medical Center, and died about 30 minutes later. Dyer said the victim “appears to be transgender,” and that detectives so far do not have a motive. Also unknown: Whether the murder was a hate crime, but preliminary information would make that a consideration, Dyer indicated.
Police believe there was “some type of disturbance in the alleyway that … ultimately carried out into the street.” That so many rounds were fired was unusual, Dyer said. The victim appeared to be running away from the shooter. Dyer said detectives believe there was “one suspect involved, a male.” He did not elaborate further on that aspect of the case.
The chief said detectives believe the shooter ran east down an alley after the slaying. Police are checking for surveillance cameras that may have captured the killer’s escape. Police also are canvassing for witnesses. Although multiple rounds were fired, Dyer said police received no 911 calls from nearby residents.
Dyer said officers had prior contact with the victim, but he did not want to elaborate Wednesday. Most were before 2008, although an officer did have contact with the victim in 2015.
This is not the first slaying involving a transgender person in Fresno. In July 2015, Casey or “K.C.” Haggard, 66, a transgender woman, was stabbed and left for dead in central Fresno. Police have still not solved that case.
(It) gives me faith that people are learning to do more than just tolerate us. They fight with us. Jess Fitzpatrick of advocacy group Trans-E-Motion on people turning out for impromptu vigil for Wednesday slaying victim
The victim is not someone who was well known to the transgender community in Fresno, said Jess Fitzpatrick, co-chair of Trans-E-Motion, a support, education and advocacy group for transgender people.
“We’re not 100 percent sure if the victim was a transgender woman or a drag queen,” he said. “We’re trying to learn more about that individual.”
If the victim is a transgender woman, “it’s disheartening to hear” that the coroner’s office identified the victim as male, he said. Dyer is to be commended for referring to the victim as appearing to be a transgender woman, but “the rest of the justice system has not caught up,” he said.
Wednesday night, a small group of mourners gathered outside of grassroots organization Common Space in downtown Fresno.
“This happens too often,” Fitzpatrick said.
The group united near an arrangement of candles, 10 of which were colored and represented the 10 transgender lives lost this year in the U.S. Fitzpatrick is hopeful an arrest will be made, but as in the case of Haggard’s slaying he knows “there’s no guarantee what the outcome will be.”
Support, even from a small crowd, was appreciated, Fitzpatrick told the crowd.
“(It) gives me faith that people are learning to do more than just tolerate us,” he said. “They fight with us.”
Ara Guekguezian, pastor at First Congregational Church in Fresno, says people should not let the killing discourage them from choosing to “live freely.”
“The words that we need to hear is ‘do not fear,’ ” he said, encouraging the community to “change the way that we speak about someone who is different.”