Judy Shepard Weighs In on the Jorge Steven Lopez Mercado Hate Murder
Hat tip to John Aravosis at Americablog, who linked the comments of the mother of the late Matthew Shepard, lynched near Laramie, Wyoming in 1998.
Dennis and I, and the entire board and staff of the Matthew Shepard Foundation, stand with all who are grieving the loss of Jorge Steven Lopez Mercado in one of the most shockingly brutal hate crimes in Puerto Rico’s history.
While we are grateful to the local law enforcement officials for their swift work to apprehend the suspect in this terrible crime, we remain deeply saddened that yet another family should have to suffer the pain of such a tragedy, and that such breathtaking violence continues to be directed at gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people who are simply trying to live their lives honestly and openly.
For another young person to lose their life and be taken from their family and community due to fear, prejudice and hatred is simply unacceptable. Each of us who believe in freedom and equality must remain vocal, active, and unrelenting in calling for justice.
Our thoughts are with Mr. Lopez, all who knew and loved him, the members of his community and the millions worldwide who have been touched by his senseless death. Our family and the Foundation will continue to work to prevent similar tragedies in any way we can.
(In a previous article, I had identified the suspected killer of Lopez Mercado as Jose Bermudez. That was incorrect. His name is Juan A. Martinez Matos.)
Earlier, in Toa Alta, Puerto Rico, the ashes of Jorge Steven Lopez Mercado were laid to rest Monday, November 23. His funeral was attended by upwards of a thousand people, among them his mother and father, family and friends, in a very public show of support, affection, and defiance on behalf of the young man who was butchered to death by another young man whose defense prepares to use the homosexual panic argument to win acquittal. Judge Madeline Vega has set a bond of $4 million dollars for prime suspect Juan A. Martinez Matos, 26, for a first degree murder charge.
The ACLU of Puerto Rico has jumped into the fray, after closely watching events unfold for the past week, calling the murder a hate crime. Pink News out of Britain hinted that Matos may be the first to be charged with murder under the new Matthew Shepard -James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which was just signed by President Obama, if they fail to indict him under Puerto Rican law.
“The support we have received from the public and Steven’s friends has given us the strength to bear this moment of such horrible pain,” Lopez’s aunt Rubi Mercado told El Nuevo Dia between tears (as translated from Spanish into English.) “I asked Steven with his wings from heaven to help us carry on without having him by our side.”
El Nuevo Dia further reported López’s aunt and his ex-boyfriend, Luis Rivera, opened the urn that contained the murdered teen’s ashes and placed a necklace and a white rose inside it at the end of the funeral Mass. The newspaper further reported López’s parents hugged their son’s friends and cried.
“We definitely hope people and society wake up and demand justice,” López’s friend José Alicea told El Nuevo Dia (as translated from Spanish into English.)
Yesterday, however, due to pressure from Puerto Rico’s two congresspeople, the ACLU of Puerto Rico, and many others, the authorities have agreed to investigate Lopez Mercado’s decapitation murder as a hate crime.
El Nuevo Dia reported William Ramírez, executive director of the ACLU and of the University of Puerto Rico’s Legal Clinic, pointed out to Puerto Rico Department of Justice Secretary Antonio Sagardía the Commonwealth has a history of “not investigating hate crimes cases” like the one he said to which Juan A. Martínez Matos reportedly has confessed.
“The ACLU has tried to get the government to accept its responsibility to investigate cases… that are hate crimes, particularly that of young Jorge Steven López Mercado,” Ramírez said in a statement. “We should not be satisfied with the possibility the federal government will do what our government is not interested in doing; which is to protect every citizen.”
Activists on Puerto Rico and around the country have repeatedly called upon local authorities to charge Matos under Puerto Rico’s hate crimes law, which includes sexual orientation. They have also blasted investigator Ángel Rodríguez Colón’s assertion López somehow contributed to his own death. The Federal Bureau of Investigation in San Juan has not ruled out the possibility of additional federal charges in the case.
Regarding Ángel Rodríguez Colón, the police investigator’s initial response to the murder enraged gay activists and supporters when he said, “These types of people, when they enter this lifestyle and go out into the streets, know that this could happen.”
Hah. Those types of people. Who enter this lifestyle. What about women who go out into the streets and are sometimes raped, whether they are prostitutes or not? So these women ask for it? Should they be forced to stay home rather than be penalized for making a salary, going to a restaurant, or merely meeting a friend? This is just the kind of mindset among law enforcement that needs to be broken like a stick over a knee and thrown away. A killing is a killing; a rape is a rape. Nobody asks for this kind of thing. Nobody.
What would really be interesting is for Colón to find out just how many of those so-called “real men,” those straight macho guys of the area, deliberately pick up a boy dressed as a woman, know the difference, and don’t even care. Bet he wouldn’t have very much to say then, especially if he knew some of them in government or in business.
The family of Steven Lopez, though, didn’t really need a pronouncement from Judy Shepard to humanize their dead son and brother. As Queerty believes, Miriam Mercado has quickly become the Judy Shepard of Puerto Rico. Here are her extraordinary words:
“When my son told me he was gay, I told him, ‘Now, I love you more’. I want to tell the world that hatred is not born with human beings, it is a seed that is planted by adults and is fostered creating a climate of intolerance and violence. We must change our ways and understand that anyone… could have been my son. And I want everybody to know that Jorge Steven was a very much loved son.”
This ain’t the end of this story.