Gay man’s gruesome murder sends shockwaves across Puerto Rico

by Michael K. Lavers

National News Editor

Monday November 16, 2009

The brutal murder of a young gay man on Puerto Rico has sent shockwaves across the island.

Jorge Steven Lpez's body was found decapitated, dismembered and partially burned in a wooded area near Cayey on Friday, Nov. 13. His friends became concerned after he failed to meet them at a popular gay club in the San Juan's Santurce neighborhood.

"The last thing we said to each other was that we would meet at a club and he would come with other friends... but he never came," Lpez's friend Luis Rivera told a local radio station.

Investigator Angel Rodriguez's assertion Lpez, 19, somehow caused his own death sparked widespread outrage and anger among Puerto Rican activists.

"When these type of people get into this and go out into the streets like this, they know this can happen to them," Rodriguez said a statement local media outlets broadcast and reported.

Puerto Rico's Civil Rights Commission and Puerto Rico Para [email protected], a local activist organization, have asked the Puerto Rico Police Department to take disciplinary action against Rodriguez. The PRPD has removed the investigator from the case, but local activists plan to protest outside the territorial capital in San Juan on Thursday. They also plan to hold a vigil later this week.

The Puerto Rican government added sexual orientation to its hate crimes laws in 2002, but Serrano complained local police have not used it to prosecute those accused of anti-gay violence. The Federal Bureau of Investigation has announced it will take jurisdiction over the case if local investigators conclude Lpez's killer or killers murdered him because of his sexual orientation.

"In the 12 years of activism I've been involved [with] in Puerto Rico, I have never seen the anger, the indignation and the pain and shock that I've seen with this," Pedro Julio Serrano, executive director of Puerto Rico Para [email protected], and a spokesperson for the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force, told EDGE in an interview earlier today from his lower Manhattan office. "There's now a call to action. People are saying enough."

Lpez's killer or killers remain at large.

Based in Washington, D.C., Michael K. Lavers has appeared in the New York Times, BBC, WNYC, Huffington Post, Village Voice, Advocate and other mainstream and LGBT media outlets. He is an unapologetic political junkie who thoroughly enjoys living inside the Beltway.