Transgender Harlem woman dies days after being assaulted in possible hate crime attack

Originally published in the New York Daily News Aug. 23, 2013.

Delores Nettles, the mother of slain transgender woman Islan Nettles, holds up Nettles’ picture. (Photo: Nicholas Wells)

Islan Nettles, 21, was brutally assaulted early Saturday morning on Frederick Douglass Blvd., cops said.

By Nicholas Wells, Shayna Jacobs and Tina Moore / New York Daily News

Islan Nettles, 21, was brutally assaulted early Saturday morning on Frederick Douglass Blvd., cops said. The attack on Nettles is being investigated as a hate crime, police said.
A bigoted thug brutally beat a transgender woman to death in Harlem just moments after realizing his friend was actually born a man, the victim’s family and officials said Friday.

It was the latest in a series of troubling bias attacks in the city, which is on pace to double the number of crimes against the gay, lesbian, transgender and bisexual community in 2013 compared with last year.

In the most recent assault, Paris Wilson, 20, repeatedly punched Islan Nettles, 21, in the face after he and a group of friends spewed slurs at the victim, cops said.

Nettles had two Facebook profiles — one identifying himself as man and using his birth name, Vaughn Nettles, and another as a woman.

Wilson was friends with Nettles’ “female profile,” the victim’s family said.

Delores Nettles said her son was walking with two transgender friends on W. 147th St. near Frederick Douglass Blvd. early on Aug. 17 when the conflict began in front of a police stationhouse.

“As Islan turned around and started arguing, (Wilson) beat him and he knocked my baby on the floor,” she said. “And he kept beating and beating and beating my baby.”

Cops said Wilson — about to enter his senior year at Buffalo State University — continued the beatdown, even after Nettles fell backward and struck his head on the pavement.

One of Nettles’ friends ran inside and alerted cops, who found the victim “unconscious on the ground with a swollen shut eye and blood on her face,” according to a criminal complaint.

Police arrested Wilson on a misdemeanor assault charge after Nettles’ friend identified him.

Nettles, who was brain-dead, was removed from life-support Thursday around the same time Wilson was being freed on just $2,000 bail.

The death was ruled a homicide Friday and charges against Wilson could be upgraded. The case is being investigated by the Manhattan District Attorney’s hate-crimes unit.

At his Aug. 17 arraignment, Wilson’s public defense attorney said the suspect maintained his innocence.

The case is expected to be presented to a grand jury sometime before Wilson’s next court appearance on Oct. 4.

At Thursday’s court hearing, prosecutor Nicholas Viorst said another witness has come forward to detail Wilson’s assault.

Meanwhile, Nettles’ mom is left to plan a funeral.

“I just wish I had the opportunity to say goodbye to him. I’m never going to get that,” she said.

“I accepted him no matter what because I loved him at the end of the day … My son was a beautiful woman.”

The heartbroken mother said Wilson should spend the rest of his life in jail.

“He deserves to rot because he took a life,” she said.

Nettles was part of a program for college students at the Harlem Children’s Zone Community Center.

Geoffrey Canada, owner and CEO of the school, said he learned about the fatal attack after the family called his staff Wednesday.

“It is outrageous that a young person was beaten to death,” he said. “If it turns out that bias was part of it, it needs to be prosecuted as a hate crime and this person needs to be punished.”

Earlier this week, the Daily News highlighted the disturbing spike in bias crimes against LGBT individuals.

The crimes include the May 18 murder of a 32-year-old man in Greenwich Village.

“This is the same summer that Mark Carson was shot in the Village because he woke up that morning a gay man,” City Council Speaker Christine Quinn said.

“You know, I don’t know how many times you can say enough is enough and it has to end but it has to end.”