News » Crime

Trans Woman Killed in Fresno

by Seth Hemmelgarn
Sunday August 2, 2015

Fresno police are investigating the death of someone who was stabbed on a city street late last week by a person in an SUV.

The victim - K.C. Haggard, 66, of Fresno - appears to have been transgender, although it's not clear if that's how Haggard herself identified. The Bay Area Reporter is referring to Haggard, who was wearing women's clothing when she was killed, as a transgender woman out of sensitivity to the community.

The Fresno County Coroner's office hasn't yet determined the cause of death, but the agency says Haggard died at 2:52 a.m. Thursday, July 23.

Surveillance video from a nearby tattoo shop shows Haggard wearing a light-colored cardigan, a knee-length dress, tennis shoes, and a blond wig walking down the street. An SUV drives up to where she is and makes a left turn in front of her.

Haggard walks over to the vehicle and appears to talk for a few moments with someone inside. As she's leaning toward the window, someone jabs at her throat. She lurches back, then walks off as the SUV pulls away.

Eventually, Haggard collapses on the sidewalk. Several cars drive by as she lay slumped against a signpost. A few people walking down the street stop to briefly examine Haggard before leaving the scene. An ambulance and a police car finally arrive several minutes after the attack.

In a news release, Fresno police said patrol officers responded at 2:20 a.m. last Thursday to a call about someone lying near the road at Blackstone and Cornell avenues. They found Haggard "suffering from an unknown type wound to the neck." Emergency medical services took her to Fresno's Community Regional Medical Center, where she was pronounced dead, according to police.

The vehicle was described as "a light colored possible Saturn SUV with a moon roof and some kind of unidentified markings on the front passenger's door."

In an interview, Fresno police spokesman Lieutenant Joe Gomez said police don't yet know exactly what happened before Haggard was attacked.

"I don't believe the investigators have more than what's in the video at this point," he said.

Gomez noted there's no audio to go with the video, and he didn't know of any witnesses, so investigators don't know what was said between Haggard and whoever was in the SUV.

The weapon used in the killing hasn't been recovered, Gomez said. It's not clear in the video exactly what the weapon was.

Tony Botti, a spokesman for the Fresno County Sheriff's Department, said in an email Tuesday that officials could "only comment on the cause and manner of death. In this case, the manner is homicide and we have not yet ruled a cause."

In an interview, Botti said officials wouldn't release how many times Haggard had been stabbed, indicating that could jeopardize the investigation.

Police believe there's only one suspect. According to the Fresno Bee, he is "described as a Hispanic man in his mid-to-late 30s. He was around 5 feet 9 inches tall and 150-160 pounds with tattoos on both arms and short, dark hair."

Gomez indicated police didn't have the SUV's license plate number.

'Considerate, Gentle'

Dr. Gerald Haggard, 62, who lives in Visalia, California, about 45 minutes south of Fresno, is K.C. Haggard's brother.

K.C. Haggard, whose legal name, authorities said, was Kenton Craig Haggard, was "a quite considerate, gentle person, and quite a thoughtful and quite a studious person. He knew a lot of different things about a lot of things," Gerald Haggard said, using male pronouns to refer to Haggard.

He said K.C. Haggard "never" identified as transgender to him.

"He was recently cross dressing," Haggard, a veterinarian, said, based on what K.C. Haggard's neighbors and roommates have told him.

He never asked her about her identity, though.

"I thought if he wanted to tell me about it, that would be fine," Haggard said. He also said K.C. Haggard never identified as gay to him and didn't have a partner.

Gerald Haggard said he last spoke with K.C. Haggard Wednesday morning, the day before she died.

"He seemed fine," Haggard said. "He was looking forward to an interview" for a job at the Bee . It was "a run of the mill conversation," he said.

Gerald Haggard said he had "no idea" why anyone would hurt K.C. Haggard.

"My brother was the type of person people liked, and liked to help ... I don't know of anybody that had a grudge against my brother. I assume that's not why he was targeted."

K.C. Haggard retired from being a security officer three years ago, and one year ago, she'd gone to Heald College to learn computer skills.

"It's a loss for my family," Haggard said, and "we feel deeply that he was a victim, and that he also was a real person. We don't want the person lost in the headlines."

He also said, "This is a loving family member who we miss, and we think that needs to be kept in mind, that he was victimized."

Gomez, the police spokesman, said the killing isn't being investigated as a hate crime.

"That's always a possibility," he said, but "right now we don't have enough information to say it's a hate crime."

The Bee recently quoted Police Chief Jerry Dyer as saying, "The FBI will be assisting with this investigation and will help determine if this was, in fact, a hate crime."

Haggard said he's satisfied with the police investigation.

"I don't know" whether the killing should be investigated as a hate crime, he said. "I'm hoping that the police are smart enough to figure that out, and if it is a hate crime, I certainly hope it is pursued as a hate crime."

Asked what K.C. Haggard may have been doing on Blackstone at 2 a.m., Gerald Haggard said "that's the one question" he and other family members have.

She got around Fresno by walking and taking public transportation. The area where Haggard was killed was "doable" on foot, "but it's not the same neighborhood" where she'd lived, he said.

He said he didn't know whether K.C. Haggard had been engaged in sex work.

Gomez said the area where Haggard was killed is "known for high prostitution activity."

He didn't know what Haggard had been doing in the neighborhood at the time she was killed, and he didn't know whether Haggard had been involved in sex work.

About 12 hours after Haggard was killed, Gomez said, the same vehicle was seen "maybe" two miles away, near Highway 99, and someone who appeared to be the same suspect was captured on video picking up a sex worker.

Asked if investigators have been able to identify the sex worker, Gomez said, "That part of the investigation is ongoing." Police don't have any indication of what happened to the sex worker.

According to the Bee, Dyer, the police chief, said that "based on Haggard's dress, police believed the victim was a transgender person."

But some have expressed concern about police using Haggard's legal name and male pronouns. Asked about the perception of police being insensitive, Gomez said, "Why is it insensitive?"

"We have to deal with evidence, and not perception, and we don't have evidence" of Haggard being transgender, Gomez said, adding, "what bearing would that have?" if Haggard did identify as trans.

"He's been identified by the coroner's office as a 66-year-old male, biologically male, and we have no information at all that he was transgender, so you see the dilemma there," Gomez said.

"Maybe he doesn't want to be called that, and he can't say either way now."

Gomez added that information initially given to investigators when they did interviews was that it "was not the case" that Haggard identified as trans. He said he couldn't share where investigators had gotten information.

Haggard had "just started" dressing in women's clothing "in the last few months," according to information police have received, Gomez said.

He wasn't sure if investigators had reached out to the LGBT community about the killing.

Fresno County Superior Court records say Haggard pleaded guilty in 2011 to a charge of possession of a controlled substance. It's not specified what that substance was, but crack cocaine was listed as her drug of choice. Files indicate she spent several days in jail and was sentenced to probation, among other consequences. Other court records show minor vehicle code violations in 2007.

Whether Haggard was trans, worked as a prostitute, or used drugs "doesn't matter," Gomez said.

Investigators are working on the case "diligently, 24/7," and "we're going to find this guy."

In his email, Botti the sheriff's office spokesman, said the coroner's report "is still being written, and this remains an open homicide investigation. Therefore, nothing would be available to access for quite some time."

In a Facebook post earlier this year about Rep's Sports Bar in Fresno, Haggard said, "Hey calling TG girls amber says we can hang out there."

In a Facebook exchange with the B.A.R. , Gabriel Soto, the bar's manager, said, "I did not know K.C. personally and am saddened by such an act of violence."

Video

Augie Rubio, 42, owns Most Wanted Tattoo. It was the shop's surveillance camera that captured the footage of Haggard being attacked.

Rubio said he first saw the video "probably four hours" after it happened. The shop closes at midnight. Rubio was still inside when the incident occurred, but he said he didn't hear anything.

He said that through surveillance video, he'd known of Haggard being in the area, which is popular with transgender women, "for about the past two months," but he hadn't known her personally.

"He liked to walk at night, never during the day," Rubio said, using male pronouns and adding that Haggard had always been alone and "minding his business."

The prostitution in the neighborhood is actually about four to five blocks north of the spot where Haggard was stabbed, Rubio said.

Karen Adell Scot, who recently founded TransCare in Fresno to help people around the country transition, didn't know Haggard, but she noted Haggard had recently created a Facebook page under her female name, K.c.

Scot, who's transgender, dismissed any notion that Haggard had been engaged in sex work when she was attacked.

"She was a newly transitioned transgender person" who was out "test driving a female outfit" when she was killed, Scot said. "That's what I think."

Haggard "was being authentic, and she was probably new and scared," and she probably had thought that she was in the area at "a quiet time" where nobody would see her, Scot said.

Scot also said it appeared to her that more than one person was in the SUV captured on video.

A homeless man witnessed the attack, Scot said. Advocates have given his information to police, she said, but she declined to share his full name with the B.A.R.

Haggard's family is having a service for her Monday, and her remains will be placed in Visalia, where she grew up, Gerald Haggard said.

A vigil is planned for 6 p.m. Thursday, July 30 at Fresno's LGBT Community Center, 1067 North Fulton, in memory of Haggard and other transgender people who have been victims of violence. There will also be a march through the city's Tower district.

Copyright Bay Area Reporter. For more articles from San Francisco's largest GLBT newspaper, visit www.ebar.com


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