Police: Killing of metro Atlanta trans woman not hate crime

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A Latina transgender woman killed in her Brookhaven apartment was shot more than once but was not targeted over her gender identity, police officials said Wednesday. 

Sophie Vasquez, 36, was killed in the early morning hours of May 4 but her body was left in the doorway to her apartment for up to six hours before police were called about 8 a.m. Investigators identified at least one person inside the apartment with Vasquez before she was killed, according to Brandon Gurley, deputy chief of the Brookhaven Police Department. 

Gurley stopped short of calling the person a suspect in Vasquez’s killing but said investigators are pursuing “very active leads” that they hope will crack the case soon.

“We do have new information that the detectives are following,” Gurley said Wednesday during a media briefing about the homicide.

“This was a very difficult case in the beginning with very little information that they had. They’ve done an excellent job collaborating, bringing that information together and developing leads that now a week later have shown us that within the very near future, they will be able to provide closure to Sophie’s family,” he added.

Vasquez is at least the second transgender woman to be killed in metro Atlanta this year. Gurley said investigators know the motive for Vasquez’s shooting death and that it’s likely not a hate crime. 

“At this point, the investigation has not given any information that leads us to believe that the victim was targeted for their transgender status. However, that is part of the investigation. And if detectives uncover evidence to support that, they would obviously seek charges for that type of hate crime,” he said.

Gurley would not discuss the motive for the homicide or detail how Vasquez met her killer. She was shot more than once but police are awaiting a report from the medical examiner to confirm an exact number. Five shell casings and three bullets from a .380 caliber handgun were found inside Vasquez’s apartment, according to an incident report.

“They have what they believe to be the motive. But until we get to a point where we can confirm that it would not be something that would be appropriate to release,” Gurley said.

In the wake of Vasquez’s death, Brookhaven police conferred with Atlanta police to see if the homicide is related to a string of violent robberies that started as Grindr hookups. A man was shot, another beaten and other victims left stripped of their clothing and robbed in a series of eight incidents in Atlanta beginning in February.

But Gurley said there’s no connection between the homicide and the Grindr robberies. 

“One of the first things that we did that day was reached out to Atlanta detectives – began to compare notes to see if there were any similarities and what Atlanta has been working versus our scene. I’m told at this point detectives have not drawn any connections to the Atlanta case,” he said.

Friends and trans activists in metro Atlanta organized a vigil for Vasquez on Wednesday at the Atlantic Brookhaven where she was killed. Donations to an online fundraiser to pay for funeral expenses surpassed $6,000 of its $10,000 goal by Wednesday afternoon.

Anyone with information about the homicide is asked to call the Brookhaven Police Department at 404-637-0600 or Crime Stoppers Atlanta at 404-577-8477.

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