Angie Zapata: Two years after her death, LGBTQ murders at second-highest rate in a decade

Saturday will mark two years since transgender Greeley teen Angie Zapata was beaten to death by a man she met on the Internet. Zapata's killer, Allen Andrade, was found guilty of murder; the jury also convicted him of a hate crime.

Zapata isn't alone. In 2009, twenty-two LGBTQ people were murdered, according to a report released today. Of those, 79 percent were minorities and most were transgender women.

LGBTQ murders are at the second-highest rate in a decade, says the report, which was released by the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs. But overall, hate violence dropped slightly in 2009. Advocates attribute that dip to a decrease in reporting -- not in violence itself.

"In the wake of the fiscal crisis, many AVP programs lost funding," says Crystal Middlestat of the Colorado Anti-Violence Program. That means LGBTQ folks lost critical resources -- though Middlestat says CAVP's programming has remained consistent. Yet Colorado also saw a drop in hate violence in 2009, she says: 110 cases, as opposed to 131 in 2008.

One of those cases was 27-year-old Mabel of Denver, who identifies as genderqueer. One night last May, Mabel was bicycling home along the edge of a city park. "I was wearing my new favorite dress," Mabel says, when a car full of young men started verbally harassing her. Mabel ignored them, but they didn't give up.

A second car appeared and cut Mabel off. The men in the car punched her off her bike and then kicked her repeatedly in the back of the head. Mabel was still wearing her bike helmet, and curled up in a ball to protect her face. "They didn't rob me," Mabel says. "They beat me and ran back to their car and sped off."

Shaken and in pain, Mabel called the police. But when they arrived, "the situation went from bad to worse." Mabel says the cops made no effort to apprehend the perpetrators, despite her detailed description of one of their vehicles. Instead, they suggested the beating was her fault and admonished her for bicycling in the park at night.

Smelling alcohol on Mabel's breath, they forced her to accept an ambulance ride. But first, Mabel asked the cops for their business cards. Instead, they gave Mabel a card for a prostitution hotline and then violently helped EMTs strap her to a gurney, she says.

Mabel says she still feels the repercussions of that night, including a $1,200 hospital bill and pain in her shoulder. CAVP, Mabel says, has helped her deal with what happened.

In Colorado, Zapata's case, which was covered by several national news outlets, has increased the visibility of hate violence, Middlestat says. A documentary by Denver filmmaker Alan Dominguez of Loco Lane Filmworks could increase it further.

Dominguez is aiming to finish his film, Photos of Angie, by the fall. He sees Angie's story as a tragedy in five acts that coincide with the five days of Andrade's trial. Filming has wrapped up, including interviews with several of Zapata's family members, local lawmakers, advocates and media outlets who covered the case, including Westword.

But putting the final touches on the film has been a slow process, especially in tight financial times. "We're piecemealing it together wherever we can get it," Dominguez says of funding. Loco Lane is still fundraising for the film (total budget: $300,000), and contributions can be made through Just Media, a local organization that promotes social justice media projects.

Check out some footage from Photos of Angie below.

Photos of Angie - Day 1 from Alan Dominguez on Vimeo.

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Melanie Asmar is a staff writer for Westword. She joined the paper in 2009 and has won awards for her stories about education, immigration and epic legal battles. Got a tip? She'd love to hear it.
Contact: Melanie Asmar