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Trans Woman Jailed in San Jose Shooting

by Seth Hemmelgarn

Nori Tejero in 2016
Nori Tejero in 2016  (Source:Jo-Lynn Otto)

A transgender woman is in jail after allegedly shooting her ex-husband outside the South Bay Costco where he worked.

Nori Tejero, 44, of San Jose, has been charged with assault with a firearm in the July 5 shooting and is being held in Milpitas' Elmwood Correctional Facility on $175,000 bail. Tejero is expected to enter a plea July 31.

Dani Castro, a friend of Tejero's, described her as "very loving" and said, "Nori has contributed decades of her life to improving the lives of trans people, and she's mentored many, many trans women."

However, Castro, who's also a transgender woman, said that Tejero's long marriage to the victim had ended because of "years of abuse."

The shooting happened at about 12:30 p.m. last Wednesday in the parking lot of the Costco at 5301 Almaden Expressway. According to police, responding officers located the male victim "suffering from at least one gunshot wound." He was taken to a local hospital to be treated for non-life threatening injuries.

Tejero "was located at the scene and taken into custody without incident," police said. The gun was recovered.

In a news release, police said, "The motive and circumstances surrounding the shooting are under investigation."

Officer Albert Morales, a police spokesman, said in an email Monday that no further information was available.

Castro said the victim, whose name the Bay Area Reporter isn't publishing, is "very quiet" and "tended to be friendly," but she'd heard about his abuse of Tejero "constantly."

Asked about behavior she'd seen firsthand, Castro said that the victim "was very controlling and manipulative and would never let her go out alone. ... He wouldn't say anything verbally, it was more like he would give her a look and she would just back down and say, 'OK, sorry.' It was hard to get time with her away from him."

Castro said she hadn't seen the victim in about a year. The B.A.R. wasn't able to reach him for comment.

Asked whether Tejero had reported abuse to police, Castro said, "I'm not sure what's OK to say and what's not OK to say."

Tiffany Woods, a transgender activist based in the East Bay, said in a Facebook exchange that she knows Tejero "pretty well," but she hasn't had much contact with her in the past couple of years.

Woods said that Tejero broke up with the victim "several months ago," and that it had been "a controlling relationship."

She said Tejero hadn't talked to her directly about the problems she was having with her husband, but "I always thought [he] was a bit too quiet. ... Seems he was a quiet controller. Like with a look that she understood. Nori was never without him at events."

Posts before shooting

Facebook posts made under the name "Noriel Herras" and provided to the B.A.R. indicate that Tejero had been agitated in the days leading up to the shooting.

In a June 29 post, Tejero made disparaging remarks about her "replacement."

"Every time I ask him: Do you tell her about me at all? He says NO so I tell him ... 'So why the fuck are you telling me about your ugly old lady then' And the conversation ends with him always getting upset and calling me very nasty names," Tejero said in the post, which was written at 3:16 a.m.

In a post that afternoon, she wrote, "He acted in ways that tested my patience and it took 7 long years of hell before I got the hint and left. I told him NO ONE should have to suffer the way I did but I was too stupid and in love with him ... It's hard to forget 24 years together and even harder to let go of it when there is still no closure, for he still has lots of my things in his custody, as I left with only the clothes on my back ... He also thinks that playing games with me is fun and pushing my buttons by telling me lies is the best thing in the world."

A July 5 post headlined "End of relationship" and written less than three hours before the shooting said, "Now I truly know the meaning of the 'If I can't have you no one else will even if I got someone to replace you and don't want you back' while keeping MY replacement so close to him so there is no chance for me to try to return the favor. ... #myexisshittierthanyours."

Citing "privacy issues," Deputy District Attorney Marina Mankaryous declined to confirm the victim's name, but she said, "He had a gunshot wound to the lower leg." She couldn't comment on his current condition.

Mankaryous said that "at this point in the investigation, I don't have information to release" on whether there had been abuse in Tejero's relationship with the victim.

However, it's "considered a domestic violence case," said Mankaryous, since information she has shows that they had been dating.

Dennis Dawson, Tejero's public defender, didn't respond to an interview request.

Former Pride grand marshal

Castro said that Tejero, a 2010 grand marshal for the Silicon Valley Pride festival, had worked at San Jose's Billy DeFrank LGBT Community Center for more than five years, and she'd helped her start the "Transpowerment" HIV prevention program there.

Tejero left DeFrank more than a year ago, said Castro. She indicated it was because Tejero had disagreed with the agency's approach to working with trans people.

Since then, Tejero's been "applying for jobs and trying to find a way to survive," said Castro.

"She was marginally housed when all this happened," said Castro. "She was staying on friends' couches." She also said that Tejero's mother died "a couple years ago."

Castro has spoken to Tejero in jail.

"She just was in a state of shock and very emotional and crying," said Castro. She said Tejero explained to her what happened, "but I can't go into detail."

Gabrielle Antolovich, the DeFrank center's president, declined to comment on Tejero because she can't talk about past employees.

Antolovich said she has "no idea" whether Tejero and her ex-husband had had problems with each other, "and that's also something I wouldn't even comment on."

The B.A.R. wasn't able to find any Santa Clara Superior Court records online indicating there had ever been trouble between Tejero and the victim.

A woman who answered the phone at the Costco where the shooting occurred declined to comment.


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