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Queer Asian-American killed in Chicago’s Palmer Square neighborhood

“Suraj Mahadeva was a victim of gun violence and had his whole life ahead of him and we are heartbroken that his life was cut short”

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Chicago Police cruiser (Screenshot via NBC News)

CHICAGO – Chicago Police Department investigators are still seeking answers in the murder of a 26-year-old queer Asian-American man in the city’s Palmer Square neighborhood. Suraj Mahadeva was standing on the porch of a friend’s home near the intersection of Albany and Dickens avenues when he was shot in the head. Mahadeva later died at hospital.

A close friend, J. Saxon-Maldonado, had heard the gunfire this past Saturday night and who found his friend mortally wounded told CBS 2 WBBM News reporter Charlie De Mar at a memorial service for Mahadeva;

“If they’re watching, I want them to know that we will find you – and we will get justice,” Saxon-Maldonado said.

Saxon-Maldonado said part of him believes Mahadeva was the victim of a random crime — but he also thinks Mahadeva could have been targeted given the brutal nature of the shooting.

“The other the part of me feels like it doesn’t feel random because of the execution-style murder,” said Saxon-Maldonado “The question is who and why, and I am hopeful that we will find that answer so that the family could have some peace.”

Suraj Mahadeva
Photo courtesy of Asian Americans Advancing Justice | Chicago

The Center on Halsted, a lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender and queer community center in Chicago held the memorial service for Mahadeva Thursday evening. According to CBS2, Mahadeva – whose first name means rising sun – was passionate about his Sri Lankan and Filipino heritage and was a beloved member of the community who was a strong LGBTQ advocate and volunteered as a swim instructor.

“Suraj was a beautiful, brilliant person – always charismatic, effervescent, happy,” said Saxon-Maldonado. “I want tonight to be solemn, but also joyful – because that’s what he would have wanted,” Saxon-Maldonado added.

Asian Americans Advancing Justice | Chicago released a statement Wednesday prior to the memorial service;

We are deeply saddened by the tragic loss of another member of the Asian American community, Suraj Mahadeva, who was a victim of gun violence in Palmer Square over the weekend. Suraj had his whole life ahead of him and we are heartbroken that his life was cut short. Suraj was an active member of queer, Filipinx, and South Asian communities across Chicago and the Midwest. He fought for racial and gender justice, including joining Advancing Justice | Chicago and other allies in direct actions for our collective liberation over the past 2 years. We are holding his family, friends, and loved ones in our hearts. Advancing Justice | Chicago will continue to work in solidarity with other communities of color toward long-term solutions to end gun violence.”

Family members said that Mahadeva worked as a medical clinician for a local doctor’s office.

“I’m going to miss his smile and hugs,” said family member named Jen. “I just hope Suraj rests in peace.”

 A GoFundMe has been started, and Mahadeva’s family is expected to have a memorial in the coming days in the Detroit area where he is originally from and the family still resides.

Chicago Police say that no arrests have been made and that the investigation is continuing.

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Illinois

Illinois Governor & others mourn loss of Black Trans activist Elise Malary

“A tireless advocate for the LGBTQ community passionate about her work- her kindness & infectious smile will be missed”

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Elise Malary (Facebook/Chicago Therapy Collective)

SPRINGFIELD – In a tweet Saturday evening after Evanston Police announced that the body of a woman recovered from Lake Michigan was the missing Black Trans activist Elise Malary, Illinois Governor Jay Robert “J. B.” Pritzker expressed his condolences to her family and friends.

“The loss of Elise Malary is heartbreaking. My heart goes out to all her loved ones, as well as all of Illinois’ transgender community. You deserve to feel safe in your home, and I will continue to do everything in my power to make Illinois welcoming and inclusive for everyone,” the Governor said.

Malary had been missing since March 9 after she sent a text to her sister Fabiana around 9 a.m. – her last known contact. She was later reported missing on March 11.  Evanston police confirmed Saturday the body pulled from Lake Michigan on Thursday has been identified as the missing 31-year-old prominent LGBTQ+ activist.

A board member of the Chicago Therapy Collective, she worked tirelessly for the Chicago area LGBTQ+ and BIPOC communities.   Malary was also a member of the community advisory group for Equality Illinois, extensively fundraised for various community groups, and worked with the Illinois attorney general’s Civil Rights Bureau.

The office of Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul released a statement:

“Today is a devastating day for the Office of the Attorney General. After hoping for several days that our friend and colleague Elise Malary would be safely reunited with her family, friends and loved ones, we have received confirmation of the unthinkable.

“Elise was a valued member of our Civil Rights Bureau who, as a tireless advocate for the LGBTQ community, was passionate about her work. Her kindness and infectious smile will be missed by those who worked with her.

“The Attorney General’s office has lost a member of our family, and as an office, we are heartbroken.

“I extend my deepest condolences to Elise’s family and friends. May Elise’s memory inspire all of us to live authentically and have humanity toward all.”

The state’s Lt. Governor, Juliana Stratton, also expressed her condolences saying; “I met Elise Malary at a meeting doing what she did so well: advocating for equitable access to healthcare and safe work spaces for LGBTQ+ Illinoisans. Her life mattered. And our brief encounter made me a better leader. Peace and love to all who are mourning. Rest well, Elise.”

Malary had a serious political impact especially for her fellow Trans community members. Lyricist, Writer, Humanist and President of Chicago LGBTQ Workers Center, Angelina Nordstrom expressed her grief writing;

“I’ll make this short. Our beloved friend, advocate, & sister Elise is no longer with us. My heart is shattered. While many of you have lost an advocate & a role model, I lost my best friend & my sister in community. Until we meet again, babygirl . . . RIP Elise Lydia.”

Brave Space Alliance, a Black and trans-run Chicago-based center has created a fund to help cover her funeral expenses.

In a statement, the alliance said: “Brave Space Alliance is devastated to learn that missing trans liberation leader, and beloved Chicago trans community member Elise Malary was confirmed dead today by the City of Evanston Police Department. Elise was a pillar of our community, a friend and accomplice to many, and a shining example of Black Trans Excellence.

“Elise’s work to advance the interests of trans people in Andersonville with the Chicago Therapy Collective has touched countless lives, and helped make Chicago a better place for trans people to live, work, and thrive.”

The funeral fund, the group said, “will be working with Elise’s family to ensure that she receives a memorial deserving of her dedication to Black Trans Liberation.”

The City of Evanston Police Department declined comment noting there is an investigation ongoing into Malary’s death.

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Illinois

Missing Black Trans activist’s body recovered from Lake Michigan

Malary has been missing since March 9 after she sent a text to her sister Fabiana around 9 a.m. – her last known contact

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LGBTQ+ activist Elise Malary (Screenshot via WBBM/CBS 2)

EVANSTON, Il. – Evanston police confirmed Saturday the body pulled from Lake Michigan on Thursday has been identified as the missing 31-year-old prominent LGBTQ+ activist Elise Malary.

WBBM/CBS 2 News Chicago reported that Thursday at around 4:30 p.m. Evanston Police and Fire Departments responded to Garden Park in the 500 block of Sheridan Square for a report of a woman found by the rocks.  

Malary, a Black Trans woman, has been missing since March 9 after she sent a text to her sister Fabiana around 9 a.m. – her last known contact. She was later reported missing on March 11.

“She’s never done anything like this before,” said Fabiana. “So that’s why it’s been just so alarming for us.” She told CBS2 that when maintenance workers went to Elise’s apartment, they found the front and back doors unlocked, but there were no signs of anything missing. 

Elise’s blue 2008 Honda Accord was missing but was found late Tuesday two blocks from her residence. Police were checking nearby cameras to see who drove Elise Malary’s car to the parking lot. Her family received word that her vehicle was left there.

Elise Malary is described as an “advocate” who has dedicated her life to “lifting up” the local LGBTQ+ community as a Black trans woman.

The Evanston Police Department is investigating.

Body pulled from Lake Michigan identified as missing Evanston activist Elise Malary:

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Illinois

Illinois LGBTQ+ community rallies after brutal hate crime

“It’s very strange for something like this to happen in Decatur now”

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Ethan Dickerson booking photo via CBS News affiliate WCIA 3

DECATUR, Il. – A rally by dozens of members of Decatur’s LGBTQ+ community took place Sunday in the wake of a brutal and vicious attack that sent an Out 60-year-old man to hospital last week.

Decatur Police announced last Thursday that they had taken 19-year-old Ethan Dickerson into custody charging him with attempted first-degree murder, home invasion, hate crime, aggravated unlawful restraint and aggravated battery. Dickerson broke into a 60-year-old neighbor’s house, tying him up and beating him with a pipe wrench because he is gay.

CBS News affiliate WCIA 3 reported that the victim was taken to an area hospital where he received multiple stitches. Dickerson appeared in court Friday morning for a bond hearing. His bond was set at $1 million.

The rally on Sunday was organized to show support for the victim. According to WCIA, event organizer August Francis said, “It’s very strange for something like this to happen in Decatur now.”

“It’s something that was a lot more prevalent and a lot more of an issue, obviously, back when, you know, this was more prevalent,” Francis added, “but now, this is the first we’ve in a very long time.”

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