A teenager who was found dead with three gunshots to the head in a wooded area near his Louisiana home earlier this month may have been killed in part because of his sexuality. After The Washington Parish Sheriff’s Office ruled Ja’Quarius Taylor‘s death a homicide, the 17-year-old’s family took it a step further and called for the FBI to investigate his death as a hate crime, according to NOLA.com. Now, major civil rights organizations are stepping in to support their efforts.
According to NewNowNext, Taylor’s body was found on Jan. 12 at the edge of a lake in the woods. The Sheriff’s Office in partnership with Crimestoppers has offered a $5,000 reward for anyone who has further information on the crime. The attorney for Taylor’s family released a statement:
“The family has a legal team to help ensure a full, fair, and just investigation is happening. We hope the FBI will get involved because of the perceived conflicts of interest and family relations the local sheriff may have. We’re looking at this as a hate crime based on the race and sexual orientation of Ja’Quarius Taylor.” A local pastor, Ken Owens, added, “We would like for the federal government to come in and take over the investigation because we’re not very comfortable with the local police and the way they’ve done the investigation already. We just want justice.”
Alphonso David, the president of the Human Rights Campaign — one of the country’s largest organizations fighting for LGBTQ+ equality — tweeted out a statement last week, writing:
“This apparent hate crime is horrific. The family of Ja’Quarius Taylor believes he was targeted because he was Black and gay. We join his loved ones in mourning & in demanding a thorough investigation by law enforcement.”
On Monday, executives for two leading civil rights organizations — David Johns of National Black Justice Coalition and Kristen Clarke of Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law — released a joint statement on Taylor’s death.
“The National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC) and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law support calls for the FBI to aid the local investigation into the murder of Ja’Quarius Taylor given evidence suggesting that this was a potential hate crime,” the statement said in part before continuing. “The dangers faced by young, Black, LGBTQ+ people are disturbing and becoming increasingly violent and fatal. With the increase in reported hate crimes since President Trump took office, we are deeply concerned that there is not a full accounting of the violence that members of our community have faced. It is critical that the FBI support Washington Parish law enforcement by providing the resources necessary to ensure a full and fair investigation.”
The Washington Parish sheriff’s department and the FBI said they will treat Taylor’s death as a hate crime if evidence warrants. They also denied accusations of conflicts of interest. “The FBI takes seriously all acts or threats of violence and is committed to investigating crimes that are potentially hate-motivated and we continue to work with all our community partners,” said the FBI in a statement.
According to NBC News, one out of every five reported hate crimes in 2018 was motivated by anti-LGBTQ bias. Approximately 60 percent of these crimes targeted gay men, according to the most recent FBI hate crime data.