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Colorado 'transgender panic' killing to be tried as hate crime

by Nick Langewis

A 31-year-old man has confessed to the killing of 18-year-old transgender woman Angie Zapata, née Justin, after being arrested about 50 miles away from the murder scene.

Police in Thornton, Colorado arrested Allen Ray Andrade in his neighborhood after responding to a noise complaint early Wednesday morning and finding him in Zapata's stolen car. Andrade now faces charges of first-degree murder as a hate crime, identity theft and aggravated motor vehicle theft, and is being held without bond. It will be the first murder in Weld County to be prosecuted as a hate crime.

In 2005, the passage of HR 1014 added protections for people based on sexual orientation, including "transgender status," to Colorado's "Bias-motivated crimes" statute.

On July 17, Zapata's sister found her in her apartment in Greeley, Colorado, fatally beaten and covered with a blanket. As Andrade would reveal to police, he met Zapata on July 15 for a one-time sexual encounter through social networking site MocoSpace. Andrade reportedly discovered Zapata's male genitalia the next day after seeing photographs around the apartment, becoming suspicious, and forcibly grabbing her crotch after her insistence that she was "all woman."

Andrade then hit Zapata twice in the head with a fire extinguisher after striking her with his fists.

While cleaning the scene for evidence, Andrade told police that, though he thought he'd "killed it," Zapata tried to sit up. He then struck her a third time with the fire extinguisher and also took her purse, keys and phone before fleeing in her 2003 Chrysler PT Cruiser.

"You get the sense that maybe he wasn't seeing Angie as a person," said Crystal Middlestadt, Director of Training and Education for the Colorado Anti-Violence Program. "Then you get an idea of the violence behind this act."

Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck told the Denver Post Wednesday that he will aggressively prosecute Andrade.

"It just can't be tolerated at any level," Buck said. "And I hope that if anything positive were to come of this, we would develop a stronger relationship with the gay, lesbian, transgendered (sic) community so that they understand just how seriously we take crimes like this and how vigorously we will pursue justice in a situation like this."

About 200 people attended the July 23rd memorial service for Angie Zapata. "Angie gave me the power to not care what people thought of me," friend Angie Portillo, a lesbian, said at the service. "She always just wanted to be who she was, and that was female and to be loved."

"A lot of times transwomen, specifically transwomen of color are targeted for multiple reasons regarding various identities, transgender identity being one of them," added Kelly Costello, Director of Victim Services for the Colorado Anti-Violence Program. "A hate crime like this serves to intimidate and disrupt an entire community," Costello added. "No one should ever live their lives in fear and intimidation, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity."

"It should be frightening to all of us," Mara Keisling, Executive Director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, told PageOneQ. "What is indisputable is that a beautiful teenager, who was loved by her family and her friends, was beaten with a fire extinguisher by someone who thought he was somehow justified in doing so. [Angie] wasn't killed because she was lying to him. She wasn't killed because she had a secret. She was killed because we live in a society that doesn't teach not to kill."

"He took a part of our heart, he did, when he killed her," said Angie's sister, Monica. "He took a part that will never, never get replaced."

A memorial fund has also been established. Contributions can be made in person at Academy Bank inside Wal-Mart, 60 W. Bromley Lane, in Brighton, Colorado, or checks payable to Monica Murquia can be sent by post to the Colorado Anti-Violence Project at P.O. Box 181085, Denver, CO 80218.

Below is video of the Wednesday press conference held by the Greeley Police Department discussing the case:

A Greeley Tribune interview with the Zapata family follows:


Originally published on Friday August 1, 2008.

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