HOUSTON (FOX 26) - A new report shows individual cases of hate-related murder of LGBTQ people spiked last year, and Texas led the nation in that spike. On Wednesday, Houston Police held a press conference with Equality Texas and the Montrose Center to raise awareness about the new report.
Seven of the murders that occurred last year in Texas were anti-LGBTQ murders, according to the report from the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs. No other state in the nation had as many cases.
"It is imperative that we not only appreciate our differences, but make it a priority to protect any person in our group whose differences make them a target of violence," said Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo at the press conference.
Of the anti-LGBTQ hate crime murders in 2017, the report shows three occurred in Harris County.
"Forty-four-year-old Glenser Soliman was found dead on February 25, 2017, in Houston," said Chuck Smith, CEO of Equality Texas at the press conference. "He was lured to his death using a dating app. Two cousins have been charged with capital murder. The same two cousins are also suspected in the murder of 26-year-old An Vinh Nguyen, who was last seen on March the 31st of last year and is presumed dead. It's believed that Nguyen was also lured to his death also while using a dating app. Brandi Seals, a 26-year-old black transgender woman was fatally shot."
Montrose Center officials used the death of Brandi Seals as an example of the need for education, as they launch a new campaign to shut down the violence. Police initially referred to Brandi as a man instead of a transgender woman following the murder.
"She was mis-gendered during the community's grieving process, which caused a bigger uproar in the community," said Jessica Zyrie, clinical case manager at the Montrose Center. "The community felt: how can we be protected if we are not respected?"
Chief Acevedo said following Brandi's death he's making sure his department is educated on LGBTQ terminology.
"The Houston Police Officers' Union has developed and employed their union app now that includes terminology for officers so they can be educated on correct usage and have a reference item when they're dealing with victims and witnesses and members of the LGBTQ community," said Acevedo.
The new report shows nationwide there were 52 individual cases of anti-LGBTQ murders last year. That's the highest number recorded since the NCAVP started tracking this information 20 years ago.
Police say they are still looking for Brandi Seals' killer.