21-year-old Islan Nettles and her friend, another trans woman, were out Saturday night around 11 pm near 148th Street and Eighth Avenue in Harlem when they met a group of boys. NY1 reports that an argument erupted once the suspect learned that Nettles was not born a female.
According to police, the suspect yelled anti-gay remarks and began punching Nettles. Nettles’s friend told police that when she ran away to get help, the suspect was on top of Nettles pummeling her in the face. The alleged incident took place across the street from a police precinct.
Nettles was initially conscious when she was taken to the hospital, but later lapsed into a coma and was declared brain dead. She died Thursday evening at approximately 6:45 pm.
Police are investigating the attack on Islan Nettles as a possible hate crime and have the suspect in custody, though they are not releasing his name pending an upgrade in the charges.
In a joint statement, City Council Speaker/mayoral candidate Christine Quinn and Council members Robert Jackson and Inez Dickens condemned the attack:
“An attack against one person, or one community is an assault against all New Yorkers. We ask all New Yorkers to come together, to embrace our differences and to denounce hate violence. New York City’s greatest strength is our diversity and we must send a clear message that we will not be deterred by acts of hate. Our thoughts and prayers are with the victim’s family and friends during this difficult time.”
They also urged anyone with information about the assault to contact the NYPD or the Crime Stoppers Hotline at 1-800-577-TIPS.