Chicago Police announced an arrest in the murder of Selena Reyes-Hernandez, 37, a transgender woman who was shot and killed in the early morning hours of May 31 in what police are describing as a "super heinous crime." Police say Orlando Perez, an 18-year-old high school student, confessed to killing Reyes-Hernandez after learning she was transgender, and returning a short time later to shoot her lifeless body multiple times because he was so enraged.
"Selena is the 17th transgender person to have been murdered, thus far, in 2020, that we know of," National Black Justice Coalition Executive Director David J. Johns said today in a statement. "This tragic taking of life feels especially painful as many people around the world risk their lives during a global pandemic to insist that all Black Lives Matter, and activists are working for increased protection and respect for transgender lives."
News of Reyes-Hernandez's death follows the murder of two Black transgender women last week. Investigators say Riah Milton was shot several times during a robbery attempt in Liberty Township, Ohio. The dismembered body of Fells was found alongside the Schuylkill River in the Bartam's Garden area of Philadelphia. Police are treating her case as a homicide.
The Transgender Law Center retweeted a claim that the family of Reyes-Hernandez is misgendering her in death by burying her in Mexico under the name and gender assigned her at birth.
\u201cWe are learning that Selena\u2019s family didn\u2019t want to recognize or acknowledge their trans daughter.That\u2019s why we are having such a hard time getting info on her.The family already buried her in Mexico under the dead name.Even in death, transphobia still continues.#JusticeForSelena\u201d
— Isa \ud83d\udc1c \ud83c\udff3\ufe0f\u200d\u26a7\ufe0f (@Isa \ud83d\udc1c \ud83c\udff3\ufe0f\u200d\u26a7\ufe0f)
Using footage downloaded from multiple public and private surveillance cameras in the area as well as data obtained from Reyes-Hernandez's cell phone, detectives were able to identify and track down Perez from his distinctive clothing. The pair allegedly met for the first time that morning and returned to the basement apartment of Reyes-Hernandez, where she revealed she was transgender.
"Once the offender realized that this victim was actually transgender, the offender became very upset," Chief Brendan Deenihan of the Chicago Police Department's detective division told reporters yesterday. "He left the residence, became more upset, and that's when he came back to the residence."
Perez was charged with first degree murder at his court appearance on Tuesday. Several times he was observed lowering his face mask and smirking, and his assistant public defender prevented him from giving a statement. Perez is being held without bail.
Johns pointed out the need to "actively combat all forms of transphobia" in his statement.
"The marginalization, discrimination, and death that trans people face must end, in all facets of life," Johns concluded. "Selena Reyes-Hernandez deserves justice, and we all deserve to live without the threat of discrimination and violence."