Transgender North Carolina woman shot, killed while being treated inside ambulance

A transgender woman shot and killed while she was being treated inside an ambulance Wednesday morning in North Carolina is the fourth transgender or gender-nonconforming person slain so far in 2020, according to LGBTQ advocates.

The Human Rights Campaign identified the woman as Monika Diamond, a 34-year-old business owner and LGBTQ advocate in the Charlotte area.

"Diamond was active in the Charlotte LGBTQ and nightlife community and was the co-owner and founder of Ncphyne Promotion Company LLC, an event promotion company that is about to honor its 10th anniversary, according to its Facebook page," the HRC said in a lengthy statement. "She also was the co-CEO of the International Mother of the Year Pageantry System -- a pageant that honors LGBTQ mothers."

Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officials said officers went to the parking lot of a Days Inn around 3:46 a.m. Wednesday for a disturbance call phoned in by an on-site security guard.

"MEDIC was also dispatched to the scene to treat one of the individuals involved in the disturbance," a news release from the department said. "While MEDIC personnel were treating the victim in their ambulance, the suspect shot the victim."

A reporter with WSOC in Charlotte tweeted that Diamond, who was identified by police using her dead name -- the male name assigned by her parents at birth -- had complained of shortness of breath. The alleged shooter, identified by police as 32-year-old Prentice Lavar Bess, climbed in the ambulance with Diamond, who asked paramedics if he could come in.

MEDIC protocol doesn't allow family or friends into the ambulance with a patient, so Bess was turned away, the reporter said.

Bess came back a few minutes later and opened fire, killing Diamond, authorities said.

"Officers were able to immediately take the suspect into custody," police officials said. "The paramedics on scene were not injured."

Bess is being held in the Mecklenburg County Jail on charges of murder, breaking and entering a motor vehicle and larceny of a firearm, according to jail records. He is being held without bail.

Those in the local, state and national LGBTQ community are mourning Diamond.

"Through her work, Diamond spent her adult life creating community and spaces for LGBTQ people in Charlotte and beyond to come together and celebrate their lives," HRC officials said. "She was a chosen mother to countless. She was a business owner (and) a loving friend, and she did not deserve to have her life taken from her."

Diamond is the fourth transgender or gender-nonconforming person killed in the U.S. this year. The first death occurred on New Year’s Day when cab driver Dustin Parker, 25, was gunned down in McAlester, Oklahoma.

Parker, who worked for Rover Taxi, was on duty early that morning because the cab company was offering free rides home for bar and party patrons celebrating the New Year. In a Facebook post the day before he was killed, he spread the word about the free service later that night and the following morning.

He also shared a comic celebrating the fact he'd survived 2019. In the strip by popular artist Nathan W. Pyle, the characters celebrate humanity's "collective survival."

“We did not die!” one character cheers.

“Exactly,” the other character says.

"Dustin was an instrumental part and manager of the new Rover Taxi service in McAlester. He loved his work and loved being able to provide for his family," Parker's obituary said. "Dustin loved to read and enjoyed dancing and singing and was a wonderful father to (his and his wife's) four children. He was also a founding member of Oklahomans for Equality, McAlester Chapter."

As of late January, Parker's boss at Rover Taxi had offered a $20,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of Parker's killer, the McAlester News-Capital reported. The case remains unsolved.

In a third case, Alexa Negrón Luciano, a homeless transgender woman who also went by Neulisa Luciano Ruiz, was slain Feb. 24 in a park in Toa Baja, Puerto Rico. The killing was confirmed by LGBTQ advocacy groups and media organizations.

Lambda Legal reported on Twitter that the attack on Luciano, which appeared to stem from her use of the women's restroom in a fast-food restaurant, was recorded and shared on social media.

CNN reported that someone at the restaurant filed a complaint about Luciano using the restroom. Photos of the subsequent police encounter were posted on social media.

A video uploaded to the internet appeared to show several people taunting and threatening Luciano afterward, the confrontation ending with the sound of gunfire.

Luciano's body was found later that day in grassland near a main road, riddled with multiple bullet wounds, CNN said. Her family positively identified her body.

The homicide sparked outrage across the country, eliciting a response from then-presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

"I'm heartsick for Alexa and her loved ones," Warren tweeted. "This epidemic keeps growing. We must use every tool we have to end it and protect trans women of color."

Warren ended her statement with #SeLlamabaAlexa, which is Spanish for “her name was Alexa.”

Puerto Rico Gov. Wanda Vázquez said Luciano’s death was being investigated as a hate crime.

"It's cruel that these people took her life away in this manner, recording it with lack of sensitivity," Vázquez said, according to CNN. "That proves that these people have to be brought to justice as soon as possible."

Police investigators responded on Twitter to reporters' questions on Feb. 28, saying they had no comment about the ongoing investigation.

"We assure you that as soon as the information requested is available, we will reach out and attend all media requests," the statement said.

On March 5, just 10 days after Luciano's slaying, a transgender man, 19-year-old Yampi Méndez Arocho, was shot to death in Moca, Puerto Rico. According to a report in El Nuevo Dia, Arocho's mother called police five hours before her son's death to report that he had been physically attacked by a woman.

The New York Daily News reported that there is little information on what took place in the intervening hours, but said Arocho was found dead around 8:30 p.m. that night in a park in Moca, which is a city about 65 miles west of San Juan.

Arocho was shot twice in the face and twice in the back, the Daily News reported.

Like the other cases, Arocho’s slaying remains unsolved.

“There is an epidemic of violence against the transgender and non-binary community, and especially against black transgender women,” the HRC said in its statement.

The organization in November released "A National Epidemic: Fatal Anti-Transgender Violence in America in 2019," which honors those transgender people slain and details what activists call the contributing and motivating factors that lead to violence against the marginalized community.

“Sadly, 2019 saw at least 26 transgender or gender non-conforming people fatally shot or killed by other violent means,” the HRC stated. “We say at least because too often these stories go unreported -- or misreported.”

HRC officials and other LGBTQ advocates push back against anti-transgender legislation on the local, state and federal level as a means of trying to stop the killing of innocent people.

"The intersections of racism, transphobia, sexism, biphobia and homophobia conspire to deprive them of necessities to live and thrive," the organization's statement said. "HRC will continue to hold the Trump-Pence administration and all elected officials who fuel the flames of hate accountable at the ballot box."

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