On April 14, 2009, the two-week trial for the murder of Angie Zapata—an 18-year-old transgender woman—is scheduled to begin in Greeley, Colo. Due to this landmark case’s complexities and its significance for LGBT people, it is of utmost importance that media coverage of the tragic death of Angie Zapata be inclusive, accurate, and respectful of a community that is too often targeted for harassment and violence.
Angie Zapata was brutally murdered in an attack motivated by anti-transgender bias on July 17, 2008. Allen Ray Andrade, 31, has admitted to police that he and Angie met online, that they went on a date, and that he viciously beat her to death.
According to the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP), the total number of victims reporting anti-LGBT violence increased by 24 percent from 2006 to 2007. The number of anti-LGBT murders also doubled during that time period. Despite this, federal hate crimes laws do not include sexual orientation and gender identity.
By looking back on Angie Zapata’s death and the countless other incidents of tragic violence that occur every year due to anti-LGBT bias, the media can play a vital role in determining future community and law enforcement response to hate-motivated attacks – from local and state hate crimes legislation to the Matthew Shepard Act and beyond.
Use the navigation to the right to explore GLAAD's Angie Zapata Resource Kit.
IMPORTANT NOTE: This resource kit originally included a sentence stating that the trial of Angie Zapata’s murderer was the first-ever prosecution of an anti-transgender murder under a transgender-inclusive hate crime law. In fact, the 2002 murder of transgender teenager Gwen Araujo was charged as a hate crime under California’s transgender-inclusive hate crimes law.
The Angie Zapata Story
ANGIE’S LIFE AND DEATH
Angie Zapata was raised in Fort Lupton, Colo., the second youngest of six. Early in life, Angie’s family knew that she was transgender, but it wasn’t until around age 16 that she began living full time as Angie. Angie was the 2nd youngest in her family. She is survived by her mother, Maria, and siblings (oldest to youngest) Monica, Gonzalo, Stephanie, Ashley, and Nicole.
In high school, Angie endured harassment from other students and received little support from school administrators. In early 2008, Angie dropped out of school and moved to the city of Greeley, where she rented her own apartment. Babysitting her nephew and four nieces became Angie’s full-time job. She planned to move to Denver to pursue her interest in fashion and makeup as a cosmetologist.
A vibrant everyday Greeley teenager, Angie was an integral part of her family and community. Angie’s sister Monica recounted to The New York Times that, “We loved to take her out, because she got so much attention. I couldn’t even take her to Wal-Mart because people would turn around. Everybody knew Angie.”
Although her friends and family were supportive, Angie was no stranger to the difficulties of life as a transgender woman. Monica Zapata said of the harassment Angie faced at school: “One time she came home crying saying, ‘Why, Monica, why won’t people accept me?’”
In the weeks leading up to her murder, Angie met Allen Ray Andrade through MocoSpace, a mobile social networking site.
[NOTE: The information in this paragraph comes from press accounts largely based on Andrade’s version of events.] After exchanging emails and hundreds of text messages, the two decided to meet for a date. After the date, Andrade spent the night at Zapata’s Greeley apartment. The following day, Zapata left to run errands. While Angie was gone Andrade says he began to question Zapata’s gender, while looking at pictures around her apartment. When Angie returned, Andrade says he confronted her about being transgender, grabbed her genitalia, and proceeded to beat her with his fists and a fire extinguisher. After he believed her to be dead, Andrade ransacked her apartment. While searching her apartment, he heard her gasping for breath as she regained consciousness and struggling to sit up. He then beat her further with the fire extinguisher and killed her. Andrade then stole Angie’s credit cards and fled the scene in her car. Angie’s sister Monica later found Angie lying in her living room floor dead, covered in a sheet.
Andrade was arrested two weeks later.
THE AFTERMATH OF ANGIE’S MURDER
The initial coverage of Angie’s murder received widespread media attention regionally and nationally in both English and Spanish language outlets.
Preliminary court appearances by Andrade suggest that his defense counsel is likely to use a blame-the-victim strategy, suggesting that an act of brutal violence was a reasonable course of action due to Andrade’s allegations that he was unaware Angie was a transgender woman when he met her.
Since his arrest, Andrade has made statements to police referring to Angie as “it,” and recounting that he told a girlfriend over the phone that, “all gay things need to die.”
Prosecutors have charged Andrade with premeditated murder, felony motor vehicle theft and felony identity theft. He is also charged with a felony hate crime. After admitting to the murder to police, Andrade attempted to have charges against him reduced in a preliminary hearing. Andrade’s attorney claimed that he was “provoked” into killing Zapata. Weld County District Judge Marcelo Kopcow declined the request for a reduced charge and ruled that there will be no bail for Andrade because of the nature of the crimes.
Because of the multiple felony counts and his prior criminal record, Andrade also faces a habitual offender charge, which, if invoked, will quadruple any sentence the other charges bring.
This will be the first time that a defendant accused of murdering a transgender person will be tried under Colorado’s hate crime law, which was amended to include sexual orientation, including transgender status, in July 2005.
It is also the first time any such prosecution has occurred in the country. [NOTE: The 2002 murder of transgender teenager Gwen Araujo was charged as a hate crime under California’s transgender-inclusive hate crimes law.]
In mid-March, Judge Kopcow made several rulings during the preliminary hearing in the case. Among them: that part of Andrade’s initial statement to police in this case will not be allowed in as evidence at trial because police failed to recognize Andrade’s request to remain silent; and that the prosecution may present as evidence taped recordings of Andrade’s calls from jail to various individuals.
VIOLENCE AGAINST TRANSGENDER PEOPLE
In 2007, the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Projects (NCAVP) reported that 16% of their overall reports were motivated by anti-transgender bias, and that 231 transgender women filed reports of violence. Since violence against transgender people is often underreported, and the identities of transgender murder victims often misreported, there is no way to know accurate numbers.
According to an estimate by the Human Rights Campaign, transgender Americans face a one-in-12 chance of being murdered. Statistics from the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) show that in schools 14.2% percent of transgender students report being physically assaulted as a result of their gender expression, while 30.4% percent experienced physical harassment.
At this time, 11 states, the District of Columbia and over 100 municipalities offer hate crimes protections that are inclusive of sexual orientation and gender identity. However, Americans overwhelmingly support strengthening national hate crimes laws – a 2007 Gallup poll showed that 68% of Americans favored expanding the law to cover gender identity and sexual orientation. Although the FBI tracks crimes towards lesbian, gay, and bisexual people, it does not identify crimes based on actual or perceived gender identity. The Matthew Shepard Act, officially known as the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2007, a national hate crimes bill, passed both the House and Senate and was added – and later dropped – from the Defense Reauthorization bill in 2007. The Obama administration has listed the passing of The Matthew Shepard Act in its goals for civil rights during the President’s first term.
Since 1999, over 400 people have been murdered due to anti-transgender bias. In 2008 alone, Remembering Our Dead has reported 21 murders of transgender and gender non-conforming people, including:
- January 21, 2008: Adolphus Simmons, 18, (Charlestown, SC) who was gunned down while taking out the trash;
- February 10, 2008: Sanesha Stewart (Bronx, NY), stabbed by an acquaintance and left to die alone in her apartment;
- February 12, 2008: Lawrence King, 15, (Oxnard, CA), shot in the head by a 14 year old fellow classmate at E. O. Green Junior High School;
- February 22, 2008: Simmie Williams, 17, (Fort Lauderdale, FL) who was shot and killed; no arrests have been made;
- July 1, 2008: Ebony Whitaker, 20, (Memphis, TN) who was shot near a daycare center; no arrests have been made;
- August 20, 2008: Nakhia Williams, 29, (Louisville, KY) who died Aug. 30, 10 days after she was shot and beaten by a group of people outside her apartment;
- September 21, 2008: Ruby Molina, 22, (Sacramento, CA) who was found dead in the American River by fishermen in September;
- November 9, 2008: Duanna Johnson, 42, (Memphis, TN) who was shot to death just weeks ago by unidentified assailants on Nov. 9 after making news earlier this year when she was beaten by police officers in February. Johnson’s lawsuit against the city of Memphis was still pending at the time of her murder;
- November 14, 2008: Lateisha “Teish” Cannon, 22, (Syracuse, NY) who was shot inside her car with her brother and friend;
- December 26, 2008: Taysia “Taysha” Elzy, 34, (Indianapolis, IN) who was shot and killed along with her boyfriend.
Appendix: Hate Crime Laws
At this time, federal hate crimes law does not cover those targeted for violence based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. This means that crimes like Angie Zapata’s murder will not be treated as hate crimes in those states that still exclude gender identity from the protections of their hate crimes laws.
The Matthew Shepard Act, which would have added sexual orientation and gender identity (as well as gender and disability) to the protected classes under federal hate crimes law, was passed in May 2007 by the House of Representatives. In Sept. 2007, the Senate also voted to pass it as an amendment to the Department of Defense Authorization bill. President George W. Bush indicated that he would likely veto the Authorization bill, however, if it reached his desk with the hate crimes law attached.
Ultimately, the Matthew Shepard Act was dropped from the Authorization bill due to fears of delaying necessary military funding. The Obama administration has listed the passing of the act as a priority goal for civil rights reform.
Most Americans support inclusive hate crimes laws. The 2008 Pulse of Equality Survey, commissioned by GLAAD and conducted by Harris Interactive, found that 63 percent of U.S. adults favor expanding hate crimes laws to cover gay and transgender people.
For more information on the Matthew Shepard Act, please see the Task Force’s FAQ and the Human Rights Campaign’s federal legislation page.
State laws on hate crimes vary considerably. Of the 45 states with some kind of hate crimes law that expands law enforcement resources and/or sentencing in cases involving bias-motivated crimes, 31 states and the District of Columbia explicitly include sexual orientation among the law's protected classes.
- In 11 states (California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon and Vermont) and the District of Columbia, hate crimes laws cover crimes based on sexual orientation and gender identity or gender expression.
- In 20 states (Arizona, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Washington and Wisconsin), hate crimes laws address crimes based on sexual orientation but not gender identity or gender expression.
- In 13 states (Alabama, Alaska, Idaho, Mississippi, Montana, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Virginia and West Virginia), existing hate crimes laws do not cover crimes based on either sexual orientation or gender identity, although they do cover crimes against other identified groups.
- Georgia and Utah do not specify any protected classes in its hate crimes laws, rendering uncertain their application to LGBT people targeted for bias-motivated violence. Georgia's hate crimes law was invalidated by the state's Supreme Court in October 2004 as "unconstitutionally vague."
- Four states (Arkansas, Indiana, South Carolina, Wyoming) do not have any hate crimes laws.
To see current hate crimes legislation depicted on a map of the U.S., see the Human Rights Campaign’s color-coded 2008 State Hate Crimes Laws map.