The LAPD-FBI Fugitive Task Force arrested 29-year-old Kevyn Ramirez Thursday night as a suspect in the murder of Viccky Gutierrez, a transgender client and friend of the Transgender Latin@ Coalition. The LAPD is still awaiting the coroner’s report before officially identifying Gutierrez, but detectives have changed the status from “suspicious death” to murder and have been in touch with the Gutierrez’s family.
West Bureau Homicide Det. Sharon Kim and investigators acted fast, though exactly what led them to Ramirez has not yet been disclosed.
On Friday, the LAPD provided more detail about the sequence of events leading to the investigation. On Wednesday, Jan. 10, around 3:14 am, LAPD officers responded to a radio call about a fight in the 1700 block of South New Hampshire Avenue. The Los Angeles Fire Department had also received a call and arrived before the LAPD. They found heavy flames contained to a single unit on the second floor of a very old two-story, multi-unit residence. They put out the fire in about 45 minutes, after which fire fighters found a dead body that they determined to be a “suspicious death.” West Bureau Homicide investigators were called to investigate.
Late Wednesday, a concerned and pained Bamby Salcedo, founder of TransLatin@ Coalition, announced the death of the group’s “sister,” Viccky Gutierrez.
“This is a high priority case for us,” LAPD Det. Sharon Kim told the Los Angeles Blade. https://www.losangelesblade.com/2018/01/11/lapd-investigating-apparent-murder-la-transwoman-viccky-gutierrez/
Sometime Thursday, they located Ramirez, obtained a search warrant, recovered evidence related to the crime, and by 8:00pm Thursday night, he was under arrest. “Ramirez has admitted to investigators that he killed the victim after a dispute,” reads a Friday afternoon LAPD press release.
The case will be presented to the LA County District Attorney on Jan. 16. Ramirez is being held on $2,000,000 bail. The LAPD notes that motive for the murder is still under investigation and asks for anyone with additional information to contact West Bureau Homicide at (213) 382-9470.
This is actually an important point since biased motives are the basis for hate crime enhancement laws, which must meet specific criteria before a crime can be considered a hate crime. It was only in 2015 that California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a law, AB 830, that expanded the definition of gender violence in the state statute to specify that “sex includes gender, which includes a person’s gender identity and gender expression.” But important criteria remains—such as the need for witnesses to the perpetrator in some way expressing hate speech toward the victim before, during or immediately after the commission of the crime. Critics of hate crime laws say these outcries are necessary to determine someone’s intent and motivation to commit the crime. Nonetheless, the lack of prosecution of hate crime enhancement laws is especially upsetting to the trans community, whose members often feel under threat just walking out the door. “A lot of crimes against trans people are minimized when we know they are hate-based crimes,” says longtime trans activist Maria Roman, who has served on transgender advisory committees for the cities of Los Angeles and West Hollywood.
“In the past,” they just called everything a ‘robbery.’ They never call it a hate crime, even though we know it was hate-based. But this was a murder and she was set on fire.”
Roman says she is “shocked” that the LAPD found the suspect and “got this done this fast.” It shows that “community pressure made a difference. They’re starting to take us more seriously,” Roman tells the Los Angeles Blade.
Salcedo is also please that the investigation lead to an arrest so quickly but is still sad that her friend Viccky “is no longer with us.”
Salcedo is “conflicted” because she feels the LAPD has not really reached out to the leaders of the community—such a Roman and Karina Samala, who are members of LA Mayor Eric Garcetti’s Transgender Advisory Council, to work collaboratively with the community during the investigation. She hopes they will be included going forward and included in any press conference announcing the charges against Ramirez.
However, Salecdo is also impressed by the swift results. “Overall, they did a great job,” she tells The Blade. “One thing Det. Kim said to me yesterday was that they were definitely going to do their best. She said, ‘This is something dear to my heart.’ I think this is what happens when a detective is invested in the case. That changes the dynamic.”
Salcedo has also set up a GoFundMe page to raise money to fly Gutierrez’s body back to Honduras and help the family with funeral services.