Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer released more information on the investigation into a fatal stabbing at a news conference Saturday afternoon.
Dyer began by saying that police identified the victim as Kenton Haggard, a 66-year-old man, based on a driver’s license. He added that, based on Haggard’s dress, police believed the victim was a transgender person.
Haggard was stabbed to death around 2 a.m. Thursday while walking near Blackstone and Cornell avenues.
“The FBI will be assisting with this investigation and will help determine if this was, in fact, a hate crime,” the chief said.
Dyer said a silver Saturn SUV with a moon roof and Bondo on its right side pulled up to Haggard. The driver, who is believed to have been alone, spoke to Haggard for some time before the attack, then drove off.
Detectives believe the suspect was looking for a prostitute, after they learned he took a female prostitute to a hotel room about 10 hours after the attack. This woman and her pimp, Dyer said, gave police a description of the driver and could identify him if they saw him again.
The suspect was described as a Hispanic man in his mid-to-late 30s. He was around 5 feet 9 inches tall and 150-160 pounds with tattoos on both arms and short, dark hair.
The police department plans to search the hotel room for DNA and fingerprint evidence to identify the man. The Real Time Crime Center is also analyzing previous surveillance footage of the vehicle to try and determine its license plate number.
Detectives are still working to figure out what Haggard was doing before the attack.
The FBI will be assisting with this investigation and will help determine if this was, in fact, a hate crime.
Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer
Interviews with the victim’s roommates indicated that Haggard had recently become addicted to methamphetamine and crack cocaine, Dyer said. Based on the time of night, the area of town and Haggard’s clothing, police believe the victim may have been a prostitute. But Dyer said no one in the department’s vice squad had any knowledge of Haggard.
Dyer said that the victim’s brother told police Haggard began to dress like a woman about six months ago, but he didn’t ask why because he was “too embarrassed.” Police have no evidence that Haggard was transgender, and by the end of the news conference Dyer was referring to the victim “Mr. Haggard.”
The issue of Haggard’s gender sparked controversy in Fresno and abroad after local activists expressed outrage towards the police and any media who referred to the victim as a man.
Rachel Bowman, a transgender woman who helps organize the annual Fresno Pride Parade, told the Bee on Friday that if a person was dressed in female attire, then that person should be called transgender or a woman.
That is exactly how Dyer referred to Haggard at the beginning of the conference, but he reverted to calling the victim a man based on official Fresno County Coroner and driver’s license records. Dyer added that Haggard’s roommates and brother couldn’t say why the victim dressed like a woman.
Fresno City Council Member Clint Olivier referred to Haggard as KC and a woman, and asked for the public’s help in finding her killer, who is “a monster on the loose.”
Dyer ended the conference by focusing on the investigation at hand, not the victim’s sexual identity.
“Regardless of gender, a person was murdered,” Dyer said. “And we are doing everything in our power to solve this case.”