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Transgender woman murdered after using women’s restroom in Puerto Rico

the governor of puerto rico wanda vazquez garced stands behind a podium

Story at a glance

  • Neulisa Luciano Ruiz, a transgender woman who also went by Alexa, was shot and killed in Puerto Rico.
  • The governor said in a press conference the crime is being investigated as a possible hate crime.
  • Videos and photos of the victim have emerged on social media in the days following her death.

Neulisa Luciano Ruiz, also known as Alexa, was shot and killed in Puerto Rico, becoming at least the second transgender person killed in the United States this year. 

The killing is being investigated as a potential hate crime, said Gov. Wanda Vázquez Garced at a press conference on Feb. 24. 

“The murder of Alexa is going to be treated with total rigor so that those people who committed and participated in this cruelty are brought to justice,” the governor said in a tweet in Spanish with the hashtag “Her Name Was Alexa.”

Ruiz was found dead in Toa Baja, Puerto Rico, earlier that morning. The day before police received a call from a McDonalds in the area reporting that Ruiz was using the women’s bathroom — but misgendering her as a “man who was dressed as a female.” 

CBS news correspondent David Begnaud reported in a video posted to social media that another woman using the bathroom accused Ruiz of using a mirror to look into the stalls. 

Police spoke to Ruiz, who told them she was homeless, and no charges were filed after the police determined there was no evidence against her. 

Soon, “vulgar, homophobic, transphobic and inaccurate” posts on social media repeated the accusations, said Begnaud. The posts have now been deleted. Then, just before 4 a.m., police found Ruiz’s body. 

Police are reportedly investigating a video posted online that appears to show her killing. At least two men can be heard in the video mocking and threatening someone, believed to be Ruiz, before the sound of gunfire. 

Telemundo Puerto Rico reported on Feb. 25 that police are looking for four teenagers in relation to her killing. Other videos and photos have also emerged on social media appearing to show Ruiz up to a year earlier, homeless. 

Garced said on Twitter that police were investigating cell phones in connection with her death. 

“The [Puerto Rico Police Department] will work with the diligence and sensitivity this case merits. We encourage people who have information to cooperate with the various investigations that are carried out,” she said in Spanish. 

Police say they have reached out to her family, but have not been able to contact them. 

Hundreds of tweets and social media posts have condemned her killing under the hashtags “Her Name Was Alexa” or, in Spanish, “Se Llamaba Alexa.” Transgender people in Puerto Rico face the same discrimination as those across the country, but in recent years the territory has made strides to improve LGBTQ+ protections.

Still, the FBI has reported a 34 percent increase in hate crimes against transgender people between 2017 and 2018. Transgender people also face high rates of homelessness, as many are not accepted by their families or friends. 

“She had dreams, hopes, hobbies and did not deserve to have her life taken from her. HRC has heard that Ruiz was experiencing homelessness, further highlighting the ways a toxic mix of transphobia and misogyny conspire to put the transgender community at risk of extreme violence,” a spokesperson for the Human Rights campaign said in a statement.