Dustin Parker, a transgender man who was murdered while working as a taxi driver in McAlester, Oklahoma, was an equality activist remembered as a steadfast person who worked tirelessly. Dustin leaves behind a wife and four children, and the community has united in support of them and in outrage over the still unsolved slaying.
In a statement, the Human Rights Campaign wrote that it was “deeply saddened to learn of the death of Dustin Parker, a 25-year-old transgender man fatally shot in McAlester, Oklahoma, early on New Year’s Day. He was killed while working as a taxi cab driver. Parker is believed to be the first violent death of a transgender or gender non-conforming person in 2020.”
HRC has been working to bring more attention to murders of transgender people throughout the country. “Sadly, 2019 saw at least 25 transgender or gender non-conforming people fatally shot or killed by other violent means. We say at least because too often these stories go unreported — or misreported,” the site reports.
“These victims are not just numbers or headlines. They were real people worthy of dignity and respect, of life and love.”
McAlester, Oklahoma Mayor John Browne wrote about Parker on Facebook. “Our hearts go out to the family and friends of Dustin Parker. Rest assured that law enforcement will put all their efforts into finding his killer and bring him/her swiftly to justice,” the mayor wrote. “McAlester lost a supremely nice person who had such a positive outlook in his life. He loved his job especially that it allowed him to help people. His passing is a loss for our community. I urge anyone who may have any information about this horrible crime, even if that information seems minor, to contact MPD.”
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Rover Taxi Called Dustin an Amazing Husband & Father Who ‘Loved Fiercely’ & ‘Worked Tirelessly’
Dustin’s employer remembered him fondly.
“Rover Taxi is devastated at the loss of a member of our Rover family. Dustin was a steadfast friend, an amazing husband and father and generous to a fault. He loved fiercely, worked tirelessly and took on life with so much hope and enthusiasm that his presence brightened all of our lives,” said Parker’s employer in a statement.
“His bright, young life was taken far too early. Please keep his loved ones in your thoughts as we all try to pull together to get through these difficult times. Dustin will be missed, but never forgotten.”
Rover Taxi wrote on Facebook on January 4: “Good Morning #RoverNation, We’re open and ready to take you to your destination! If you donate at least $20 or more to the Parker Family, your ride is free! This is from 7AM to 5PM Today. #TeamRover #RoverFamily #WeAreDustin.”
2. Parker Was a Founding Member of a Group Devoted to Equality in Oklahoma
Parker “was a founding member of Oklahomans for Equality-McAlester Chapter: Southeastern Equality, a local LGBTQ organization,” HRC wrote. Oklahomans for Equality wrote on Facebook, “Dustin is one our founding SeEQ members and was a loving soul, wonderful husband, father and friend. Please send your energies to his family and our community as we grapple with this tragedy.”
A Facebook fundraiser to help Dustin’s family has raised more than $48,000. “Today around 6:30 AM, Dustin Parker was shot and killed while on the job at Rover Taxi, We’re raising money to help his family make it thru this time. Please consider giving what can to help with expenses related to this and help his Wife and Kids make it thru this tragedy,” it reads.
On January 2, the site urged: “Lets inspire a wave of kindness, Today pick one thing, Pay for someones coffee, gas, drive thru, and ask that they only #PayItForward, because We should not let fear, uncertainty and doubt drive us. #WeAreDustin and this could have been any of us in McAlester!”
3. Parker Was Remembered as a ‘Beautiful, Smart Human Being’
Floyd Martin wrote on Facebook: “My friend, Dustin Parker, was murdered last night in McAlester, while driving for Rover Taxi… I have enjoyed watching this young man evolve and flourish as a beautiful, smart human being. RIP Sweetheart.”
According to the Facebook fundraiser for Dustin’s family, “Dustin’s wife Regina is a stay at home mom and has no income and can’t work, the house needs some repairs and upkeep, she has a pile of medical bills, car payments and more that she can not afford. She would like to keep the house but has no way to pay for it! 50k may not be enough to right this wrong! #WeAreDustin.”
Another friend wrote on Dustin’s Facebook page, “I know you won’t get a chance to read this, but I want you to know you will be missed. We didn’t talk much, but I always rooted for you, and stealing memes from each other always brought a smile to my face. This isn’t the last meme you posted, but this will probably be the last one to come across my feed. And that thought kind of f*cks me up. You and your family deserved so much better. Rest well, sweet prince.”
4. Parker’s Taxi Was Struck by Gunfire
According to Tulsa World, Parker was found deceased in his Rover electric taxi around 6:30 a.m. January 1, 2020 in the 200 block of West Delaware Avenue in McAlester, Oklahoma.
The taxi “had been hit by gunfire multiple times,” the newspaper reported, adding that Parker was found dead in the driver’s seat.
“We’ve still got investigators out running down leads right now,” Capt. Kevin Hearod told Tulsa World. “(Parker was) just a working man, making a living for his family, and he didn’t get to come home.”
No suspects are in custody. Police did question and release a person of interest.
5. Dustin Was Working for Rover Taxi Only Since September
Dustin wrote on Facebook that he had been working for Rover Taxi since September 2019. Parker’s last visible Facebook post is a New Year’s Eve meme.
Parker shared a post from Rover Taxi on New Year’s Eve, “We will take you to the bar tonight, the full fare price is in effect, If you need a ride home, it will be free to your residence. Call us when you’re ready to go home, or book from our app. Rides tomorrow to get your car will be full fare too, so just save time and money and let us take you to the bar tonight.”
Parker was only 25 years old. Authorities told The Advocate that they have no evidence indicating that Parker was targeted for his gender identity, at least at this point.