Tuesday morning the body of 25-year-old Marcal Camero Tye was found dead in Forrest City, Arkansas. According to the local police it appeared she was shot and dragged by a car. Sheriff Bobby May, told WREG Channel 3, "We're going to be, of course, waiting for the lab results, the pathology reports, but it appeared to be that he did have a head wound and also that he had been drug by a car."
I spoke to Randi Romo, the Executive Director of Center for Artistic Revolution, the Arkansas Statewide Equality Organization Tuesday evening. Randi told me when she heard about the murder she immediately contacted the United State's Justice Department's LGBT liaison in Arkansas, Mary Sloan.
"We don't know if it was a hate crime," Randi said, "but we want to make sure it is closely looked at. We want to make sure the full force of the law is put behind this." According to Romo the Justice Department is going to keep a close eye on this case.
Arkansas is one of four states that do not have their own hate crime legislation, and only one of two that do not have a civil rights commission. Mississippi is the other.
Forrest City, Arkansas, is a rural town of about 14,000 people. It is named after the first Grand Master of the Klu Klux Klan Nathan Bedford Forest.
Marcal Camero Tye identified as a woman, however the local police continued to use the incorrect pronoun when they spoke to reporters on Tuesday. They also referred to her as a "cross dresser" and reflected that in their police reports.
The local news originally reported the victim as a, "man dressed as woman" because that is how the police report described Marcel according to the reporter. GLAAD, Meghan Stabler from HRC's Board of Directors, GetEqual Arkanasas, and local activists contacted WREG to correct the story to reflect Marcal's true identity. WREG quickly acted upon the advice they were given and edited the original report.
"We should at least honor Marcal in death for who she was since she did not get that respect in life," Romo said. "We really want the media to take a look about how they report these stories."
Since Arkansas does not a have a hate crimes law, local statistics about violence against the trans community are not available. The only public record is the description in local media, so that description must be highly accurate. That can be difficult when the police force does not even know how to describe a trans person in their report.
Sadly, another member of the trans community was lost to violence. The source of that violence remains unknown, but everyone is watching this case closely to make sure the law does their job.
"We are not saying that no one is doing their job," Randi explained, "We are just watching to make sure everyone is doing their job the way it would be for anyone else."