FRESNO, Calif. - The LGBT and transgender communities came together, holding a vigil for a murder victim who Fresno Police believe to be a transgender woman. Police say the suspect gunned down 34-year-old Imer Alvarado near Belmont Avenue and 4th Street early Wednesday morning.
The vigil was held at the Common Space in Downtown Fresno where community members gathered for support. Friends of the victim say Alvarado identified himself as a gay man. Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer says the victim appeared to be a transgender woman. If correct, this would be Fresno's second transgender murder in two years.
Patsy Montgomery never knew Imer Alvarado but she says a friend of her's knew the 34-year-old as a youth. She says Alvarado took refuge at a drop-in center at Planned Parenthood, trying to find himself 15 years ago. Montgomery's colleague described Alvarado fondly.
"A beautiful and loving spirit that Imer brought happiness to those who knew him," said Montgomery.
Police say shot spotter detected gunfire in the area of Belmont and 4th Street around 3 A.M. Wednesday. They say a lone male suspect killed Alvarado. Surveillance video of the scene shows what appears to be two people coming out of an alley. Chief Dyer says the suspect is on the loose and the gun is missing.
"We don't know if there is a hate crime involved since this person does appear to be a transgender," said Dyer.
Fresno's last transgender murder happened in 2015 when police say someone stabbed K.C. Haggard who approached a car on Blackstone Avenue. Haggard's killer is still free.
"Most transgender murders internationally, especially in the US quite often go unsolved and it tends to make at least me feel like less of a person," said Trans-E-Motion Internet Coordinator Amanda Watson.
A friend of the victim says Alvarado never spoke about being transgender but community says it doesn't matter and Alvarado did not deserve to be shot and killed.
"However Imer identified, whether it was him, whether it was her, Imer was Imer to those who knew him and loved him," said Montgomery.
A friend of Alvarado's says he knew him for eleven years and this is a tragic loss.
"It's unbelievable that somebody can just kill somebody like that. Nobody deserves to die this way regardless of who you are, regardless of what you do. Nobody deserves to be killed in the street," said Christian Beltran.
Police want anyone with information on this case to come forward. Please call crime stoppers at 498-STOP.