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Three men charged with assaulting a transgender woman in Puerto Rico

Three men have been charged with hate crimes in the 2020 assault of a transgender woman in Puerto Rico, federal prosecutors announced Friday. 

Activists have identified the victim as Alexa Negrón Luciano, a 29-year-old homeless trans woman who was found dead on the same day as the alleged assault. The Department of Justice did not explicitly identify the woman as Luciano, but said the victim's initials were A.N.L. 

The complaint against Jordany Rafael Laboy García, Christian Yamaurie Rivera Otero and Anthony Steven Lobos does not mention the victim dying, and it is not clear if the DOJ has any evidence linking them to Luciano's death. The Department of Justice did not respond to CBS News' request for comment.

The men were charged with the hate crimes for assaulting a transgender woman "because of her gender identity," the DOJ said. Rivera Otero and Lobos Ruiz were also charged with obstruction of justice for allegedly deleting evidence of the attack from their cell phones. 

While driving in Toa Baja, Puerto Rico, on February 24, 2020, the men recognized the victim from social media posts previously identifying her as a man who entered the women's restroom at a local restaurant, according to the indictment. They verbally harassed her before driving away to get a paintball gun and paintballs, prosecutors said. 

The men then returned to the place where they spotted the victim and allegedly fired paintballs at her. During both encounters, at least one of the men filmed their actions, and later shared their recordings with others, prosecutors said. After the attack, Rivera Otero allegedly told Lobos Ruiz to delete at least one video of the paintball gun assault and verbal harassment of the victim from his cellphone – and he did so. 

Some clips of the encounters went viral. In one, it shows the victim being threatened and harassed before shots are heard.

If convicted, the men will face up to 10 years in prison for the hate crime charge, up to five years for the conspiracy charge, and up to 20 years for the obstruction of justice charge, with a maximum $250,000 fine for each charge. 

Transgender woman harassed before killing 05:22

The death of Negrón Luciano sent shockwaves across the island. At least five other trans women were killed on the island in 2020, according to the Human Rights Campaign

According to CBS News national correspondent David Begnaud, she 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 Alexa 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. 

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." 

On Friday, Puerto Rican LGBTQ activist Pedro Julio Serrano urged authorities to solve her murder.

"There are three suspects arrested, but there are more who contributed to her murder, those who shared the lie on social media and fundamentalist leaders who foment a climate of violence with their hateful rhetoric towards trans people," Julio Serrano said. Puerto Rico's police department did not respond to CBS News' request for comment. 

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