The second transgender murder of the year has apparently taken place in South Los Angeles, CA. While a few of the details are still unclear, the gruesome picture is beginning to take a sadly familiar tone. It involves Viccky Gutierrez, a South Los Angeles resident of the Pico Union locale. LAPD spokesperson Officer Drake Madison told the Los Angeles Blade that the LAPD’s West Bureau Division and the LA Fire Department responded at 3:15 am Wednesday morning to a fire in a multi-family house in the 1700 block of South New Hampshire Boulevard in the Pico Union district. The flames were contained to the attic and a single unit on the second floor of the two-story, 116-year-old building.
The news had previously been posted by Bamby Salcedo, President and CEO of the TransLatin@ Coalition, on facebook Wednesday evening. According to Salcedo, Gutierrez was “burned in her apartment.” Due to associated post, showing January 2017 as the date of the incident, it was nearly dismissed as a past event.
“One person was found dead inside, the Los Angeles Blade quoted KTLA news as saying, that according to officials that they “believe the death may be suspicious.” Public information officer Eric Scott said definitively that officials indeed deemed the fire “suspicious”. However, “no further details on why the death was suspicious were given.” KTLA also reports that arson investigators are talking to witnesses and looking into the source of the fire. The other families escaped without injury.
“This is a high priority case for us,” LAPD Det. Sharon Kim told the Los Angeles Blade.
She expects the autopsy results to be released either Thursday or Friday to be able to issue a positive identification.
According to the Los Angeles Blade, Kim also clarified that a news report indicating that federal agencies are involved in the investigation is incorrect. The LAPD has a long-standing policy confirmed by then LAPD Chief Bill Bratton directly to Bamby Salcedo—that the LAPD does not cooperate with ICE regarding any undocumented individuals in order to gain community support in finding murder suspects, perpetrators of hate crimes and to allow victims and witnesses of crimes to come forward.
Salcedo and the LA trans community already know the burned body is Viccky Gutierrez. And Salcedo’s not only hurt but angry. “It’s not just that she is gone—it is the way that she was murdered. She was brutally murdered. We believe that it was intentional. We believe it was premeditated,” Salcedo says in an emotional video in Spanish and English posted on her facebook page Salcedo wants to “seek justice for Viccky.”
Viccky Gutierrez was a young trans Latina woman from Honduras who used to come to TransLatina Coalition group meetings and “just to have lunch,” Salcedo tells The LA Blade.
Ask why Salcedo suspects murder, she says: “her body was burned so we think she was murdered before they got there. It’s not confirmed—police are still investigating. But one of her closest friends, Cristy—who comes from the same small town in Honduras—had dinner with her that night and said she was okay. So there is a lot of speculation—we know the danger we experience every day. We think it’s possible she was killed before they burned her apartment. She was completely unrecognizable. People kept calling her cell phone and she didn’t answer. It was late at night and her neighbors were sleeping and no one heard her screaming. So my assumption is that she was dead or unconscious before she was burned. That’s why I’m 99% sure she was brutally murdered and burned to death.”
Salcedo adds that “one of the girls told Cristy that they told her the apartment smelled like gasoline, like it was sprayed on the apartment and lit on fire.”
A press release from the Los Angeles Fire Department stated:
“The Los Angeles Fire Department was summoned at 3:16 AM on January 10, 2018 to 1721 South New Hampshire Avenue in the Pico-Union area, where firefighters arrived quickly to find heavy flames showing from the second floor of a 2,149 square-foot two story residential triplex.
Sixty firefighters under the command of Battalion Chief Timothy Kelly made a fierce assault on the flames, discovering the remains of one person inside the premises. No other injuries were reported. The blaze was confined to the unit of fire origin and attic above, and fully extinguished in just 48 minutes.
Though one or more smoke alarms were present in the heavily damaged home, their functional status at the time of the blaze could not be immediately determined. No obvious factors were noted that could impede the egress of occupants. The 116 year-old residence was not equipped with optional residential fire sprinklers.
A positive identification of the deceased person, as well as the cause, time and manner their death will be determined by the Los Angeles County Department of the Medical Examiner-Coroner .
While the cause of the fire remains under active investigation, it has been determined suspicious in nature. Monetary damage is still being tabulated.”
Amongst themselves, the mourning trans community also wonders if Viccky Gutierrez who engaged in survival sex work, may have been killed by somebody who may have come to visit her.
“There’s a strong possibility it came from work. It’s what we have to do. But we just don’t know. We asked the LAPD to check her cell phone but everything was burned,” Salcedo says.
Speaking of Viccky Gutierrez, “She was such a sweet girl. She was our sister,” Salcedo said.
This is the second name that will be added to the Transgender Day of Remembrance list of transgender people resting in power. In 2017 there were 28 transgender people murdered in the United States.