The body of Bee Love has been positively identified by Hendry County, Florida law enforcement. On September 4, authorities found her car engulfed in flames with Love dead inside. Friends suspect that the 23-year-old Love, who had recently transitioned her gender, was the victim of a hate crime.
Friend Desmond Vereen said Love was “a people person.” Vereen, who described himself to the Miami Herald as Love’s “gay mother” said, “she loved to be around people, and meeting new people, too, because of her new lifestyle that she transitioned into.” Vereen recently held a memorial for Love and vowed to keep her memory alive. I’m here, and I’m going to speak and do whatever I have to do, he told the Washington Post.
Love, also known as Bee Love Slater, is the 18th transgender person murdered in the United States this year. “According to available tracking, fatal anti-transgender violence in the U.S. is on the rise and most victims were black transgender women,” American Medical Association Board Member S. Bobby Mukkamala, M.D. said, adding that crimes against transgender individuals is typically underreported.
Here’s what you need to know about Bee Love.
1. Authorities Described Bee Love’s Death as ‘One of the Most Brutal’ Homicides They’d Seen
Love’s body was discovered on September 4 after authorities received calls around 2:15 a.m. from several Clewiston residents reported hearing two loud booms, then saw flames. Police located the fire and discovered a burning vehicle next to a canal at 13th Street and Virginia Avenue, in the Clewiston community of Harlem. After extinguishing the fire, first responders found Love’s remains.
“The body is burnt beyond recognition,” Captain Susan Harrelle of the Hendry County Sheriff’s Office told the media after the gruesome discovery. It took two days for authorities to identify Love through dental records. It’s unclear as to why Love was about 30 miles away from her home in Pahokee, NBC 2 reported.
There are unconfirmed reports that Love may have been bound and shot before the car was burned. The Hendry County Sheriff’s Office has not discussed Love’s exact cause of death but did state that her death was one of the most brutal homicides they’d seen.
2. Bee Love Received Threatening Text Messages Before Her Death
According to close friend Kenard Wade, Love was proud of her transition but had recently become fearful. Wade, who’d known Love for over six years, said she’d received disturbing text messages on the night of her death.
Love was so concerned she talked about leaving Florida and moving to Atlanta, which she felt was more accepting of transgender individuals. Antorris Williams knew Love and said she was saving up money to leave town. “She was willing to sleep in her car until she found a job and things of that nature.”
Vereen agreed that Love’s death may have been fueled by hate. ‘I feel like she was targeted because of her lifestyle,’ he shared with NBC 2.
3. Bee Love’s Death is Still Under Investigation
The Hendry County Sheriff’s Office said Love’s death is currently under investigation and can’t be categorized as a hate crime until they’ve determined a motive. Police are asking for the public’s help as they work to solve her murder.
“If you saw anything suspicious we are asking that you contact us immediately,” Hendry County Sheriff Steve Whidden said in a statement. Anyone with information is asked to call (863) 674-5600 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-780-TIPS (8477).
Transgender advocates see Love’s murder as a sign of increased violence against the LGBTQ community. “I think the community is under attack on a national level,” Michael Riordan, who came out as a transgender woman at age 37 told WPTV. “Deaths are taken almost with a cavalier attitude. That’s tragic. And to be murdered for who you are is absolutely despicable and when people don’t take it as serious as it is – that’s even more despicable. It’s really what makes it a true tragedy.”
4. Love Was Killed the Same Week as Transgender Teen Bailey Reeves
LGBTQ activists point out that Love was killed just two days after 17-year-old Bailey Reeves was gunned down in Baltimore. Reeves was leaving a cookout she’d attended with friends when she was shot in the torso.
Her body was found on Parkwood Avenue by a 16-year-old who heard three gunshots, then screamed, “My friend! Someone help my friend! Call 9-1-1! Reeves was rushed to a nearby hospital where she later died.
“We saw her laying in the middle of the street in a pool of blood, it even traumatized me,” an unidentified witness told WMAR.
“This epidemic of violence that disproportionately targets transgender people of color — particularly Black transgender women — must cease,” the HRC wrote in response to Reeves’ death.
5. Florida’s Hate Crime Laws Don’t Explicitly Cover Transgender Individuals
While Love’s friends feel confident her murder should be classified as a hate crime, Florida’s hate crime statute only protects criminal acts that “evidence prejudice based on race, religion, ethnicity, color, ancestry, sexual orientation, or national origin,” the statute reads. The statute does not specificly address hate crimes committed against transgender individuals.
According to Equality Florida, state law provides increased penalties for hate crimes based on sexual orientation that has been interpreted to include hate crimes targeting the transgender community as well. The organization states on its website that “adding explicit protections for gender identity and expression to our state hate crimes statute continues to be a priority.”
Sexual orientation accounts for 22% of all hate crimes, according to the office of the Florida Attorney General. “LGBT Floridians are at the highest risk of being targeted with a hate crime,” Equality Florida noted on their website.