Islan Nettles, 21, was taken off life support yesterday after what police describe as a brutal beating by a man shouting homophobic slurs in Harlem on Saturday night.
Nettles was out with several other transgender women at 11 p.m. Saturday when she ran across a group of men near West 148th Street and Eighth Avenue — directly across from the housing bureau’s Police Service Area 6 precinct. When the man realized that Nettles and her friends were transgender, they began throwing punches and yelling homophobic slurs, cops said. Nettles, who also went by Vaughn Nettles and Alon Nettles, was taken to Harlem Hospital, but could not be revived, cops said. A 20-year-old man, whose identity was not immediately released, was arrested in connection with the attack, police said. He was initially charged with misdemeanor assault, but cops said they expected to upgrade the charges on Friday.
The new charges may include murder as a hate crime.
UPDATE: NYC Public Advocate (and mayoral candidate) Bill De Blasio has issued a statement.
“This is a horrifying and painful moment for our city. Ms. Nettles’ murder was crime rooted in hate and ignorance. My heart goes out to her family and her friends as they come to terms with this inexplicable act of violence. Make no mistake: The denial of fundamental rights to transgender New Yorkers fuels the appalling violence this community continues to face. That must end. Delivering justice here requires we investigate this hate crime and hold the perpetrator or perpetrators fully responsible. But it also demands we finally affirm the rights of transgender New Yorkers as full and equal members of our city, state and country.”
UPDATE II: The NYC Anti-Violence Project will hold a vigil for Nettles on Monday night. Watch their Facebook page for the details to be announced.