NEW YORK — A transgender woman attacked last weekend in Harlem has died in a case police said they are now investigating as a hate crime after learning that the man accused of hitting her may have used antigay epithets.
The victim, Islan Nettles, 21, was declared brain-dead from her injuries Thursday and was later taken off life support at Harlem Hospital Center. She had been admitted after the attack early last Saturday, hospital officials said.
A spokeswoman for the New York City medical examiner’s office said Friday the death had been ruled a homicide and the cause was “blunt force trauma.”
Nettles was walking with a group of transgender friends when they encountered several men on the street. When the men concluded Nettles and her friends were transgender, a scuffle broke out, police said, with punches thrown and homophobic slurs shouted.
A 20-year-old Harlem man, Paris Wilson, was arrested late Saturday and charged with misdemeanor assault and harassment. It wasn’t until a witness told police that homophobic language had been used that they realized the confrontation might have involved bias. The Police Department’s hate crimes task force is now investigating the case.