Suspect Arrested in Horrific Murder of Puerto Rican Gay Teen

Yesterday I posted about the murder of gay 19-year-old Jorge Steven Lopez Mercado, whose body was found decapitated, dismembered, and partially burned by the side of the road near the Puerto Rican town of Cayey. The police investigator suggested that he deserved what he got because of the "type of lifestyle" he was leading.

Jorgemercado Today, the paper Primera Hora reports that a 28-year-old man has been arrested as a suspect in the murder and and two vehicles have been seized as evidence. The man is scheduled to be questioned today.

The paper reports that the man was targeted after extensive interviews with Mercado's friends in the town of Caguas, where Mercado was living. They report that the man offered Mercado money for sex.

Harry Rodriguez of the FBI said the agency is monitoring the case, and is willing to provide assistance, if necessary, in the investigation with regard to DNA evidence.  Said Rodriguez: "The FBI is monitoring this investigation with the police of Puerto Rico because there are federal statutes under the laws of civil rights violations covered by hate crimes."

Allegations of homophobia against the investigating officer Angel Rodriguez, who suggested that Mercado deserved what he got because of the "type of lifestyle" he was leading, were dismissed by the supervising officer Jose Figueroa Sanchez.

They were, however, condemned by Executive Director of the Civil Rights Commission Vance Thomas, who said: "In addition to investigating, administrative charges must be filed. I know of no context in which an officer can justify that a person ought to be killed."

Note: this is my translation of the article. I'm sure it's not perfect. Spanish speakers, please let me know if I have anything terribly wrong.

Activist Pedro Julio Serrano, who is also Communications Manager for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, released a statement to Towleroad expressing optimism about the arrest and warning against judging the victim:

"Even when everyone is innocent until proven guilty, it is hopeful that
they have arrested a suspect. We're grateful for the Police work that
has acted promptly and we trust that the investigation digs into the
hate crime angle and if it is proven that it was indeed bias-related,
that the criminal is processed to the full extent of the law….We urge the media and the authorities not to judge the victim, but the
criminal who committed this horrendous crime. Even if there are
particular circumstances in which this crime was committed, we have to
keep the attention where it deserves to be: a young gay man was
brutally murdered by someone who did not have any compassion or respect
for the dignity of a human life."

Cayey Michael Lavers at Edge reports that disciplinary action has been taken against the officer and that local activists are planning a protest in San Juan on Thursday.

AmericaBlog has set up an action center for people to email Attorney General Eric Holder and FBI Director Robert Mueller asking them to investigate whether a hate crime was committed, although from the article it sounds like the FBI is on it.


There will be a vigil held in New York City in downtown Manhattan – location TBA on Sunday at 8 pm. Here's a page of information on it, and here's a Facebook page.

Gay Puerto Rican Teen Decapitated, Dismembered, and Burned [tr]

Posted November 17, 2009 at 7:30am ETC by Andy Towle
in crime, News, Puerto Rico