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  BLACKLINES

Lesbian Teen Killed
2003-06-01

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African-American lesbian Sakia Gunn, 15, was the victim of a fatal stabbing May 11 while waiting with four female friends for a bus in her hometown of Newark, N.J. Police say that Gunn, who was returning from a party in Greenwich Village, was attacked by two men who pulled up to the bus stop at 3:30 a.m. and started flirting. After she and her friends rebuffed the advances by telling the men they were gay, a shoving match began, and Gunn was stabbed and the two men fled. Newark police, who have yet to arrest any suspects, said they are treating the incident as a bias crime. Last Tuesday, police obtained an arrest warrant for 29-year-old Richard McCullough after their investigation identified him as one of the two men who fought with Gunn on Mother's Day.

Gunn, a sophomore at West Side High School, was buried Friday. A vigil was held in Newark, followed by a protest at Newark City Hall.

'The local response to this murder has been overwhelming,' said Michael Young, GLAAD's Northeastern regional media manager, 'and it's encouraging to see the Newark community come out in support of this young woman.'

Sakia Gunn was a 10th grader at West Side High School, where she had played guard on the basketball team. She lived in with her grandmother, Thelma Gunn, her legal guardian, and her mother, Latona Gunn.

'I won't know what kind of crime this is until I talk to the guy who did it and he tells me. All I know is that my child is gone now,' said Latona Gunn, 33, according to The New York Times.

In other hate-crime news, the National Latina/o Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Organization issued a statement saying they are 'deeply saddened by the murder in New Haven, Conn., of Jessica, legally known as Horacio Mercado. The victim was found late last week in Mercado's burning apartment, which police say may have been set ablaze to cover up the crime. A stab wound in the neck has been ruled as the cause of death.'

No arrests have been made.

'This murder is another example of the violence that members of the Latina/o LGBT community face, often for simply being who we are,' said Martin Ornelas-Quintero, LLEGĂ" Executive Director. Dozens of reported murders of transgenders have occurred in the U.S. during the last 18 months.

Under anonymity, community members have informed LLEGĂ" that transgenders who knew Jessica are upset and frightened. Many feel unsafe going out, and tenants from Jessica's building are considering relocating. Fear of retaliation is a factor.


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