Transgender Teen's Murder Suspect Snapped

"The crime that we are looking at here just can't be tolerated anywhere," Buck said at a news conference Wednesday. "I hope that if anything positive were to come of this we would build a stronger relationship with the gay, lesbian and transgender community so they understand just how seriously we take these cases."

Crystal Middlestadt, a spokeswoman for the Colorado Anti-Violence Program said the group will wait for the prosecutor's final decision before commenting.

"There is a possibility that the suspect did have bias against transgender women," Middlestadt told "Regardless of whether those formal charges are filed, it's important to notice that these type of crimes affect the gay, lesbian and transgender community."

Last week, the Colorado Anti-Violence Program, working with Zapata's family, issued a statement asking for the public's help finding Zapata's car and condemning the crime as possibly motivated by an anti-transgender bias.

"We want the whole community involved to find this person who hurt my sister and to let everyone be aware that all she wanted was to be beautiful," Angle's sister, Monica, said in the statement. "We want this violence to end. Transgender people deserve to be treated with respect."

Avy Skolnik, coordinator of the New York City Anti-Violence Project, said that certain details in the Weld County affidavit point to a bias motive, specifically Andrade's use of the word "it" to describe Zapata. "That's a very common and very tragic slur used by people who express anti-transgender bias."

Slonik said that "gay panic" has been used -- largely unsuccessfully -- as a defense in violent crime cases involving gay and lesbian targets in the past. "We're seeing the parallel thing happening with transgender folks," he said. "But not knowing what someone's genitalia is not a reason for violence of any shape or form."

Slonik said that many transgender people struggle to know when the best time is to speak openly about their genitalia -- a disclosure not expected of non-trans individuals.

Mara Keisling, the executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, said that society must do a better job of educating young people about gay, lesbian and transgender issues.

"Angie was not murdered because she did something wrong," Keisling said. "Angie was murdered because a criminal was taught to disrespect. Anyone who would have the nerve to claim they beat someone with a fire hydrant because they found out they had male genitalia. What kind of society do we live in when where that is being used as an excuse?"

There were 177 bias-motivated incidents against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals in Colorado in 2007, according to data collected by the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs. That number was down from 242 in 2006, but the severity of the incidents, according to the report, intensified.

Sexual-orientation bias accounted for more than 15 percent of the 7,722 total hate crime incidents in the United States in 2006, according to the FBI's Bureau of Investigation Statistics, which also tracks crimes based on race, religion, ethnicity and disability. In more than 60 percent of these incidents, homosexual men were targeted.

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