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Gay man killed in Fresno

by Seth Hemmelgarn

Imer Eliu Alvarado. Photo: Courtesy Facebook
Imer Eliu Alvarado. Photo: Courtesy Facebook  

Fresno police are looking for the person who fatally shot a gay man about a mile away from two of the city's gay bars.

Imer Eliu Alvarado, 34, was struck at about 3 a.m. Wednesday, May 17 near an alley that's in a neighborhood filled with auto repair shops and small houses. Many neighbors said they were asleep at the time of the shooting, and police spokesman Lieutenant Mark Hudson said in an email that officers were alerted by the city's Shot Spotter system.

"As of last week, we did not have a motive for the murder," said Hudson. Police originally reported that Alvarado was transgender, but friends said he was gay.

Just before a memorial last Thursday near North Fourth Street and East Belmont Avenue, the site where Alvarado was shot, his friend Christian Beltran, 31, said that he'd been "really lively, and full of joy."

"He had a lot of challenges, but he always found a way to overcome them," said Beltran. He said that Alvarado was "hard of hearing" and sometimes had difficulty speaking, but he knew sign language.

About 20 people gathered for the late afternoon memorial and placed candles, flowers, and a large teddy bear at the bottom of a tree. Many used sign language to share their memories of Alvarado, and they stayed at the site for more than an hour.

Ariel Ceballos, who spoke vocally and signed, called Alvarado "a great guy."

"I'm here for him to show love and respect for him," he said.

Another friend wept and said, "My heart is breaking."

The neighborhood was almost completely silent, with the only noise coming from a passing ice cream truck that played its tune over and over.

Two policemen were also at the memorial, but declined to share details of the case with the Bay Area Reporter.

"We're just here to show our support for the friends and family," said Detective Daniel Messick.

Police haven't shared details of what Alvarado may have been doing just before he was shot, but Beltran said that Alvarado lived near the scene, and his Facebook profile says he'd visited the gay bar Alibi, which is just over a mile away, within hours of the shooting.

Fresno's ABC 30 TV station has aired video captured by a neighbor's surveillance system that shows someone being shot. It's hard to make out many details in the black and white video.

The station reported that Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer said that officers had found Alvarado "lying in the street with multiple gunshot wounds to [his] upper body. ... What appears to have occurred is some type of disturbance that started in the alley way and that disturbance between two individuals ultimately carried out onto the street."

Tony Botti, a spokesman for the Fresno Sheriff's Department, which includes the coroner's office, said in an email, "Alvarado died at the hospital at 3:32 a.m."

Francisco, who lives by the long, dirt alley near where Alvarado was shot, told the B.A.R. that he'd heard several gunshots, but he didn't see anything, and he didn't call the police.

"It's called snitching," said Francisco, who declined to give his last name. He said he hadn't wanted to risk getting in trouble if the shooter found out he'd been the one who called police.

Jim McClure, 69, who lives just down the block, also heard the gunfire, but he didn't look to see what was happening.

"The shots were so close, I didn't want to take the chance of being shot at," he said.

McClure, who also didn't call police, said officers arrived within minutes.

Some neighbors said gunfire isn't uncommon in the area, and several people said prostitutes regularly work there.

Maria Jimenes, 47, who primarily speaks Spanish and spoke to a reporter with the help of her sons, said there are "a lot of prostitutes" in the neighborhood, "but the police don't do anything."

According to ABC 30, Dyer said that Alvarado appeared to be transgender, but it's not clear why he said that. Police wouldn't say what Alvarado had been wearing when he was shot.

Fresno Superior Court records say that Alvarado was charged twice in 2008 with misdemeanor counts of engaging in prostitution. The records indicate that both charges were dismissed as the result of plea deals.

In response to emailed questions, including whether there was any evidence that Alvarado had been working as a prostitute when he was shot and whether police had a description of the suspect, police homicide Lieutenant David Madrigal said that he couldn't provide answers because "details of the case must be kept confidential for the integrity of the investigation and the sake of the victim."

A memorial for Imer Eliu Alvarado was set up near where he was killed. Photo: Seth Hemmelgarn

Alvarado's friend Christian Beltran said he didn't know whether Alvarado had been working as a prostitute.

"He never really talked about it," said Beltran.

Asked in a Facebook exchange what Alvarado may have been doing in the area when he was shot, and whether he may have been engaged in prostitution, Rex Ella Soledad, who arranged Thursday's memorial, said, "I don't know ... Just don't hurt Imer's reputation."

A woman who lives near where Alvarado was shot said she'd been asleep at the time and woke up to police ringing her doorbell.

"My heart goes out to the family," said the woman, who declined to give her name. "Nobody should ever have to bury their child."

There still haven't been any arrests in the July 2015 murder of K.C. Haggard, a 66-year-old trans woman who died after being stabbed on a Fresno street.

"The Haggard case is still under investigation, but I'm not ready to discuss details," Fresno police Lieutenant David Madrigal said in an email this week. 

 

Contact the author at s.hemmelgarn@ebar.com .

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