A California man was sentenced to life in prison for killing a gay man who was reportedly wearing women’s clothing at the time he died.
Derrick Jordan Garcia, 30, in May of this year pleaded no contest to the May 2017 shooting death of 34-year-old Imer Eliu Alvarado.
According to the Fresno County District Attorney, the incident occurred on May 17, 2017 on the corner of Fourth Street and Belmont Avenue in the central district of the City of Fresno.
Initial media reports on the shooting identified the victim as a “transgender woman.” Those reports, however, were incorrect.
According to Fresno ABC affiliate KFSN, police in the area were the source of that mistake. The TV station said they spoke to a “close friend” of the deceased who corrected the record to say that Alvarado was a gay man who occasionally wore women’s clothing.
Some of the gender-identification confusion, however, also came after the local coroner’s office reportedly identified Alvarado as a man – based on his birth certificate and driver’s license. Jess Fitzpatrick, then-co-chair of Trans-E-Motion, a nonprofit dedicated to transgender rights, criticized the coroner’s decision to identify Alvarado as a man as “disheartening” on the basis that no one knew how the victim self-identified, according to The Fresno Bee.
Authorities did not charge Garcia with a hate crime enhancement, despite outrage from Fresno’s transgender community, the Bee reported.
Police Chief Jerry Dyer named Garcia as the suspect in February 2018 after a lengthy investigation, the newspaper reported. Police said the incident occurred during the early morning hours, citing shell casings and video footage as the evidence marshaled against him. Dyer was the first person to identify the deceased as transgender and said the victim was believed to have been engaged in sex work at the time of his death, the Bee said.
Friends who attended Alvarado’s memorial agreed that it was a possibility, according to the Bay Area Reporter, a long-running publication focusing on the LGBTQ+ community.
According to KFSN, the security footage used to identify Garcia showed a “scuffle” immediately prior to the fatal shooting; several cars passed by without stopping to help as the victim lay dying.
Garcia turned himself in after a warrant was issued for his arrest in July 2018. He was charged with one count of murder with the personal and intentional discharge of a firearm that caused death.
In November 2018, the defendant was determined to be mentally incompetent to stand trial and was sent to a state psychiatric facility.
A judge just sent the Fresno man accused of killing a man in drag to a state hospital because he’s currently mentally incompetent.
Derrick Garcia will probably go to Atascadero.
No timeline for his return.
He has a buzz cut now, btw.
Prior @ABC30 story: https://t.co/O2GDRjL20j pic.twitter.com/sHmbT9R5HC
— Corin Hoggard (@corinhoggard) November 13, 2018
After some time, Garcia’s legal competency was restored, and he eventually agreed to take a plea deal that could have resulted in a sentence as light as 19 years to life in prison. His sentencing was originally scheduled for early June 2022, according to the Bee. A conviction before a jury would have resulted in a mandatory sentence of at least 50 years behind bars.
“If convicted of the charge and allegation, Mr. Garcia faces a sentence of up to 50 years to life in prison,” the DA said at the time the charges were announced. “However, upon reaching age sixty (60), and after serving twenty-five (25) years, he will be eligible for release under the Elderly Parole Program.”
[image via Fresno Police Department]
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