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Suspect ID'd in gay Fresno man's shooting death

by Seth Hemmelgarn

Derrick Jordan Garcia. Photo: Courtesy Fresno Police Dept.
Derrick Jordan Garcia. Photo: Courtesy Fresno Police Dept.  

Fresno police have identified a suspect in the fatal 2017 shooting of a gay man who'd been dressed as a woman and, they believe, working as a prostitute.

Derrick Jordan Garcia, 25, of Fresno, is being sought in the murder of Imer Eliu Alvarado, 34, police Chief Jerry Dyer announced at a news conference Friday. A $2,000 reward is being offered for information leading to Garcia's arrest.

At around 3 a.m. May 17, 2017, police responded to a Shot Spotter report of seven gunshots fired in the area of 3420 East Belmont Avenue. Alvarado was "lying in the roadway" with gunshot wounds, said Dyer. He was pronounced dead at a hospital soon thereafter.

Officers located shell casings that police believe to be from the firearm used in Alvarado's killing, which occurred near an alley that's in a neighborhood filled with auto repair shops and small houses. Other evidence includes "a video from a nearby business that gave officers at least an account of what occurred," but the footage "was not very descriptive," said Dyer.

He said that when Alvarado was found, he "was dressed in female clothing, including a wig and wearing makeup."

"As you know, this case is a result of Imer Alvarado being dressed as a female and working out on the streets as what we believe to be a prostitute that evening, based on her prior arrests and some other information our detectives gathered," said Dyer.

He told reporters, "It's difficult to say what the motive is. We do know that Imer Alvarado would dress up in female clothes, even though he is a male and that he would only dress up in those clothes when he went out on to the streets to work as a prostitute."

Alvarado was twice arrested for prostitution, said Dyer, and based on information from his friends as well as from social media, Alvarado was known to "dress up as a female, wear a wig, put on makeup, and go out onto the streets and work as a prostitute."

Dyer added that police are "not sure what led up to the shooting, but we do know that he was shot multiple times by Garcia."

Friends of Alvarado have told the Bay Area Reporter that he was gay.

Dyer said police "do not know whether or not he identified as a transgender or someone who was a cross-dresser, we just know what type of activity he was in when he dressed as a female. I know there's a lot of different speculations and preferences out there in terms of what we would refer to Imer as, male or female at that time, but Imer was a male and he was dressed in female clothing at that time for the purposes of either giving the appearance of being a cross-dresser or being a female when he was involved in prostitution activity."

Police believe Garcia "is possibly in the area," said Dyer. It's also "very, very possible that he has left the area, but we're hoping he is still in Fresno and that someone has information regarding his whereabouts."

Dyer said that Garcia's criminal history includes a 2011 arrest for possession of a stolen and loaded firearm, for which he was convicted and received two years probation. He was also arrested in 2016 in a misdemeanor domestic violence case, said the chief.

Christian Beltran, a friend of Alvarado's, told the B.A.R. last year that Alvarado had 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.

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.

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

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.

Beltran said he didn't know whether Alvarado had been working as a prostitute.
"He never really talked about it," said Beltran.

Police are also looking for help locating the firearm used to kill Alvarado. Dyer didn't say what kind of gun was used.

Anyone with information in the case may contact detectives Victor Miranda at (559) 621-2452 or Miguel Alvarez at (559) 621-2441. Those wishing to remain anonymous may call (559) 498- STOP (7867).

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