Equality Forum Calls for Investigation

Nov. 14, 2009, the body of 19-year-old George Lopez Mercado was found by the side of the road in Cayey, a city near the victim’s hometown of Caguas, Puerto Rico.

Lopez Mercado was partially burned, decapitated and with both arms and legs dismembered from his torso.

The police investigator suggested that Lopez Mercado deserved what he got because of the “type of lifestyle” he was leading.

According to Puerto Rican activists, Puerto Rico has never classified the murder of a gay man as a hate crime.

“Equality Forum calls on US Attorney General Eric Holder to have the FBI investigate,” stated Malcolm Lazin, Executive Director, Equality Forum. “The Matthew Shepard Amendment empowers and requires the federal government to prosecute this horrific murder.”

Lazin served as a federal prosecutor; received the US Attorney General’s Distinguished Service Award, the department’s highest annual honor; and was the Chair of the Pennsylvania Crime Commission.

The Matthew Shepard Amendment to the federal hate crimes act includes among other protected categories, sexual orientation. President Obama signed the bill into law on October 28, 2009. The federal hate crimes act enables federal agents to investigate hate crimes, especially where there does not appear that a full and fair investigation will be undertaken.

Puerto Rican gay activist Pedro Julio Serrano stated, “It is inconceivable that the investigating officer suggests that the victim deserved his fate, like a woman deserves rape for wearing a short skirt.”

“Equality Forum joins Puerto Rican activists in condemning the statements of the investigator and calls on Police Superintendent Figueroa Sancha to terminate the officer,” stated Malcolm Lazin. “It is clear that without federal intervention, there can be no fair and complete investigation.”

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