Transgender Woman Dies Five Days After Brutal Harlem Assault

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Islan Nettles. | LINKIN.COM
Islan Nettles. | LINKEDIN.COM

Islan Nettles, a 21-year-old transgender woman brutally attacked on August 17 in Harlem, died on August 22 after she was removed from life support at Harlem Hospital.

According to police, Nettles and a friend were approached by a group of men who began hurling homophobic insults and throwing punches after realizing the women were transgender.

The fatal attack occurred near 148th Street and Eighth Avenue, across the street from a public housing police service area.

Nettles resided on West 131st Street in Manhattan.

One arrest, second suspect in slaying of 21-year-old Islan Nettles

Police arrested a suspect in the attack, 20-year-old Paris Wilson of 400 Seventh Avenue in Manhattan, and initially charged him with misdemeanor assault in the third degree and harassment in the second degree.

Those charges may be upgraded in the wake of Nettles’ death, pending the outcome of an autopsy by the Medical Examiner's Office. According to Detective Cheryl Crispin, an NYPD spokeswoman, subsequent to the original charges being filed, police determined that "derogatory language" was used in the attack, so the department's Hate Crime Task Force is now working on the case.

Another suspect, who has not been named, made self-incriminating comments to police, according to the NYPD. No arrest has been made of that suspect.

Wilson, who at last report was still out on bail and is represented by Legal Aid, is next due in court on October 4 and grand jury action is expected.

According to Nettles’ LinkedIn page, she was a graduate of the Bread and Roses Integrated Arts School in Harlem and hoped to work in the fashion industry.

Since late spring, the city has seen a surge in anti-gay violence, with assaults near Madison Square Garden and in the East Village and Soho. On May 18, Mark Carson, 32, was shot to death point blank in a homophobic assault in the West Village.

On August 14, two gay men were attacked shortly after midnight in Chelsea by a group of up to six men shouting homophobic slurs. One of the victims required stitches under his lip and the other underwent an MRI to check for a possible concussion.

Borough President Scott Stringer termed the killing of Nettles “appalling and unacceptab­le,” while Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, Lower Manhattan State Senator Daniel Squadron, the sponsor of the long-stalled Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act, and his out gay colleague, Brad Hoylman of Chelsea, called on Albany to act quickly to enact a transgender civil rights law. That law would extend protections of the state hate crime statute to the transgender community. In a joint statement, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and Harlem Councilmembers Robert Jackson and Inez Dickens urged New Yorkers “to embrace our differences and to denounce hate violence,” and said anyone with information about the crime should contact the NYPD through the Crime Stoppers Hotline at 1-800-577-TIPS.

Both the Anti-Violence Project and the Ali Forney Center, which serves homeless LGBTQ youth, also condemned the killing.

A vigil to honor Nettles' life will be held on Tuesday, August 27 at 6 p.m. at Jackie Robinson Park, 148th Street at Bradhurst Avenue, one block west of Eighth Avenue.

Updated 5:17 pm, July 20, 2018
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Reader feedback

perrybrass says:
This is really horrible; it's another sad story that should not be happening in New York. The only thing that is going to stop anti-gay violence is when the police make it an absolutely real priority. This may also include the cops following gay couple out on the streets to protect them, and even going as far as employing cops as decoys. It also means that all of us should know some form of self defense, even if it is only knowing when and how loud to scream. I have written before that one of the prime objects of homophobes is to deprive you of your voice—to shame you into silence. So making all the noise you possibly can can save your life. I published "How to Survive Your Own Gay Life" back in 1999—it talked a lot about surviving anti-gay violence. It is painful to me that this young woman did not. The world will be deprived of what she could give the community. The men who did this should not get away with it. Perry Brass
Aug. 23, 2013, 5:01 pm
wilhelmina perry says:
We stand in support of this young woman and the many others who are vulnerable in the face of hate , bigotry and violence. It must stop, but it will only stop when we stand together, arm in arm, letting our City know that violence and hate against the LGBT community will not be tolerated.
Aug. 26, 2013, 5:08 pm
Donna Cartwright says:
Looks to me like this story needs more reporting. Why did the police charge Islan's assailants only with misdemeanor assault? Was she taken to the hospital immediately after the assault? Did the police stay with her, or monitor her condition? Have the police upgraded the charges, and if not, why not? (After all, she died last Thursday.) It appears to me that perhaps the cops only started taking the case seriously when she died
Aug. 27, 2013, 9:36 am
Robben says:
The atmosphere in Harlem can be tense at times. At times the cordiality only touches the surface. When a person is victimized as a result of their sexual orientation we may only question the ignorance of instability and violence. We must work closely as a means of understanding one another. There is no motive for homophobia that can account for the murder that has taken place.
Sept. 15, 2013, 5:25 am

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