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2 men plead guilty to assaulting homeless trans woman Alexa Negrón Luciano hours before she was found murdered in Puerto Rico

Transgender Puerto Ricans say police dismiss hate crimes
"They're the first ones that either don't believe us or violate us": Transgender Puerto Ricans describe police dismissing hate crimes 03:00

Alexa Negrón Luciano made headlines more than three years ago when the homeless transgender woman was found murdered in Puerto Rico. On Monday, two men who recorded themselves assaulting the 29-year-old just hours before she was found dead pleaded guilty for assaulting her because of her gender identity. 

The two men – Jordany Rafael Laboy-Garcia and Christian Yamaurie Rivera-Otero – pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit a hate crime and obstruction of justice, the Department of Justice announced on Monday. Officials said that the two men were with a co-defendant after midnight on Feb. 24, 2020 when they came across Negrón Luciano in Toa Baja as she was standing under a tent along the side of the road. 

Alexa Negrón Luciano FBI

At that time, the third man with them, Anthony Steven Lobos-Ruiz recorded a video of himself yelling at Negrón Luciano, "la loca, la loca," ["the crazy woman, the crazy woman"] along with threatening comments, prosecutors said. The men obtained a paintball gun and recorded a video of themselves returning to the scene to shoot Negrón Luciano "multiple times," officials said. Once they were done, they shared those videos with others, although it is unclear based on the Justice Department's announcement to whom those videos were sent.

But then hours later, Lobos-Ruis and Rivera-Otero texted each other to delete the videos they took of the assault, prosecutors said. 

Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke said in a statement that the men assaulted Negrón Lucian "because of her gender identities and then trying to obstruct an investigation into that assault." 

"Acts of violence against LGBTQI+ people have no place in our society today," Clarke said. "As we mark 25 years since the death of Matthew Shepard, the Justice Department remains steadfast in its commitment to investigate and prosecute those who target LGBTQI+ people with acts of violence." 

Laboy-Garcia and Rivera-Otero initiated their assault on Negrón Luciano after recognizing her from social media posts about an incident that occurred a day prior at a local McDonald's, prosecutors said. 

According to CBS News national correspondent David Begnaud, Negrón Luciano was found on the side of a road and had been shot multiple times. Twelve 9-millimeter bullet casings were found at the scene. 

Police told CBS News someone accused Negrón Luciano of putting a mirror under a bathroom stall to spy on people, but they said there was no proof of that. A friend of hers told Begnaud that she used a mirror to watch her back and see who was behind her. 

Local resident Nandy Torres told Begnaud after the incident that he had watched in horror as hate against Negrón Luciano spread.

"All I saw was hate, and exclusively people saying that she had to be killed," Torres said.

No one has yet to be charged for Negrón Luciano's murder. The day before she was found dead, videos showing a verbal and physical assault against Negrón Luciano were posted to social media, the FBI said. Federal officials had offered a reward of up to $50,000 for information leading to the indictment and arrest of the people responsible for the murder.

U.S. Attorney W. Stephen Muldrow said Monday that the department "vigorously defends the rights of all people, regardless of their gender identity." 

"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," Muldrow said. "...Our community must stand together against acts of violence motivated by hate for any group of people – we remain steadfast in our commitment to prosecute civil rights violations and keep our communities safe and free from fear."

The Justice Department says that both defendants have sentencing hearings scheduled for Nov. 10, and that the third man involved, Anthony Steven Lobos-Ruiz, previously pleaded guilty to committing a hate crime. He was sentenced to 33 months in prison. 

The death of Negrón Luciano sent shockwaves across the U.S in 2020.

"I'm heartsick for Alexa and her loved ones," Sen. Elizabeth Warren tweeted after the murder. "This epidemic keeps growing. We must use every tool we have to end it and protect trans women of color.

The killing also caught the attention of Puerto Rican celebrities, including Bad Bunny. The reggaeton superstar wore a white T-shirt with the words "They killed Alexa, not a man in a skirt," emblazoned in Spanish during an appearance on "The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon." 

Activist groups and victims say transgender people are targets of violence from both Puerto Rican citizens and from local police for expressing their gender identity, and that police are often dismissive of crime victims who are transgender. Of the 44 transgender or gender non-conforming people who were fatally shot or killed by violent means in 2020 in the U.S., six were killed on the island, accounting for 14% of the deaths — more than any state or territory, according to tracking by the Human Rights Campaign.  

Puerto Rico's first-ever hate crime charges were filed in 2020 by federal prosecutors in the case of two transgender women, Serena Angelique Velázquez Ramos, 32, and Layla Pelaez Sánchez, 21, who were allegedly burned to death by two men.

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