Story by Clinton Cameron
Photos by Jessica Brecker
Police still have no suspects in the East Hollywood slaying of a 47-year-old transgender woman, shot in the head at 3 a.m. on Oct. 5, at the corner of North Kenmore and Melrose Avenues. The crime happened less than a block from Los Angeles City College. The college neighborhood has become the focus of two homicides. Surveillance cameras recorded the violence as three or more men surrounded Aniya “Asia” Parker, one appeared to strike her in the face and another shot her in the head as she walked away.
In another crime, police have no suspects in a shooting death that happened on Sept. 27, in the 4100 block of Rosewood Avenue at 2:30 a.m. Both crime scenes are less than a five-minute-walk from the Los Angeles City College Campus.
Police at the L.A. Rampart Division are treating the most recent shooting as a “robbery gone bad,” and see no connection between the two crimes. A day after Parker’s shooting, L.A. City Councilman Mitch O’Farrell spoke to a crowd gathered at a vigil held in the victim’s honor.
“I want to thank everyone for coming tonight and standing with us in solidarity in relation to this horrible crime against this very vulnerable woman who did not deserve to die this way,” O’ Farell said.
During a brief address, he thanked the police and the LGBTQ community for their support. He recognized LACC film student Kerri Cecil for organizing the vigil.
When Cecil heard about the killing, she contacted the councilman. They collaborated and planned a memorial in honor of the victim.
“I live very close to this area, so, it really hit home to know that this area is no longer safe, that we have people walking around you know, robbing and murdering people,” Cecil said. “As a transgender woman, I believe it’s very important that we stand up and say to the world that we are not going to allow you to systematically kill us off.”
According to an L.A. Now report on Oct. 5, LAPD Det. Joe Losorelli claims it is too early to determine if the transgender victim was targeted or if any valuables were stolen. Det. Julian Pere is one of the lead investigators in the case. At the vigil, he pointed out where the victim sat down after she was shot.
“A large part of our investigation is going to be on all the videos we obtained,” Pere said. “We obtained several different locations of video today so as we continue our investigation, that’s what we have to do, decipher all of that video.”
Surveillance camera footage taken from local businesses went viral within hours. It shows three to four unidentified men surrounding the transgender woman. Within minutes they attacked and shot her. Cecil’s idea about what took place differs from the Police Department’s version, after seeing the footage.
“I think the fact that she was trans [was] a huge factor in them shooting her in her head, especially after watching the footage,” Cecil said. “[The police] are so quick to make it into only about a robbery, well, [the suspects] had her under that tree right there for a long amount of time. They had her there. They were just talking. You know what I mean? So, obviously they probably figured out she was trans during the conversation and then it quickly got violent.”
Identifying a transgender person who is the victim of a homicide is a complicated matter. From the time of the initial police report, it is not clear how to address the gender of the victim. The Los Angeles Police Department identified her as both a transgender female and transgender male.
Mary Zeiser attended the vigil last Friday evening. She described herself as a gender variant person who does not identify as transgender.
“The news and the media need to use the right pronouns for God’s sake,” Zeiser said. “The trans community needs to inform the media on how to properly handle communicating about transgender issues.”
For transgender identified Jennifer Daze, it is not as much of an issue. She expressed some concern upon hearing LAPD’s varying descriptions, but is a bit more forgiving knowing they finally got it right.
“I think most people are just so confused about [trans-identity],” Daze said. “It’s not vital that [the police] get it right. It would be better it they got it right. But, you know what? Sometimes I get it wrong.”
Sgt. Karen Leong visits the vigil as a liaison. Her role is to reassure the community of Chief Charlie Beck’s commitment to this case. She explains how LAPD handles issues of gender and victims of crimes.
“We do have department policy that does indicate we are supposed to refer to individuals as their preferred name,” Leong said. “It should have been either transgender woman or transgender female for our department standards or what ever she wants to be called.”
Cecil sees issues for the transgender population as being very unique. She identifies the struggle for the transgender population as something that has taken a course of its own. For her, politics of transgender identity is seen as an oppressed group struggling within an oppressed group.
“We are the smallest minority within the minority. You know?” she said. “We got the L-G and the B, which greatly outnumber the trans community.”
When the LGBTQ Center expanded its title to include the transgender population, it bridged the gap between them and other queer-identified groups. Ezak Perez works with Gender Justice L.A. They are a trans-rights organization from Los Angeles. The LGBTQ Center is one of her resources.
“We work in collaboration a lot with the LGBT Center sometimes,” Perez said. “I think that L.A. really took a long time to change because they do have transgender services. They serve an entire community, not just the gay and lesbian community.”
As Councilman O’ Farrell visits the community on the night of the vigil, the most recent homicide is of particular interest. Due to the circumstances involving gender, it affects the community differently. He approaches the subject with sensitivity.
“Well, it’s always tragic and alarming and puts the transgender community on edge when one of their own looses their life to such a brutal act,” Councilman O’ Farrell said. “So, it’s significant in that this community, that are often marginalized in society come together and raise the awareness that the transgender community in particular; they’re vulnerable to hate crimes much more so than other groups quite frankly.”
Walking distance from the vigil, on the corner of Vermont and Melrose is the Faultline. It is one of the last surviving bars in the area with a gay clientele.
Sean Love is a security guard for the bar. Since the recent shootings, he is on edge.
“It’s sad because, you know the thing is we cater to drag queens here and trannies, transvestites, and you know, this is a gay playground,” Love said. “It’s horrible. I feel sick over her. I don’t know if we knew her. We probably did, and that’s what’s sad.”
Sources say the victim’s family attended the vigil.
Safety is a concern among all students and neighboring residents in the wake of the two shooting deaths. It is of particular concern to students because both investigations land off of Heliotrope Drive, in the backyard of LACC’s campus and on the fault line of two recent crimes.