Trans woman allegedly pistol whipped in Kensington

A search is under way for Joel Martinez, 21, of Camden.

Police this week were searching for a suspect who allegedly pistol-whipped a Trans woman in the Kensington section of the city.

A search is under way for Joel Martinez, 21, of Camden. Around 4:30 a.m. June 12, Martinez allegedly assaulted a Trans woman and two women she was with outside a hookah lounge on the 300 block of E. Westmoreland Street in Kensington.

Authorities haven’t released the names of the victims. The Trans woman’s two companions were shot, allegedly by Martinez. Their injuries aren’t fatal. The Trans woman was pistol whipped and beaten. Additionally, Martinez allegedly shouted anti-LGBT slurs during the incident.

Philadelphia police issued a plea for the public to help locate Martinez.

“The Philadelphia Police department needs the public’s assistance in locating [Martinez], who’s wanted for attempted murder, aggravated assault, Violation of Uniform Firearms Act, and related offenses in reference to a double shooting that occurred at 300 E. Westmoreland Street,” the police statement says. “Anyone with any information on this male’s whereabouts is asked to please call the Shooting Investigations Group at 215-686-8270/8271 or call 911.”

Naiymah Sanchez, Trans rights organizer for the ACLU of Pennsylvania, said anti-Trans violence must be eradicated. 

“Violence experienced by Trans and non-binary folx is a result of the national and statewide initiatives to dehumanize, outlaw, and shame trans people by politicians,” Sanchez said, in an email. “Those politicians and the people who support them are pushing narratives that incite radical and harmful acts against trans folx.”

Sanchez added: “We have to do a better job as humans to support and protect one another. This person [Martinez] is accused of hurting the Trans person and her friend and sister. So now transphobic violence is being turned on both trans folx and the people who support, love, and try to protect us. It has to stop. And it has to stop now. Everyone in this situation is from an oppressed community. We have to stop turning on each other and unite, for the sake of our own liberation.”

Police released this narrative of the June 12 incident: “At 4:37 a.m. June 12 on the 300 block of East Westmoreland Street, a 22-year-old Hispanic female was shot one time in the left arm. The female was transported by police to Temple Hospital and placed in stable condition. A 17-year-old Hispanic female received a graze wound to the pack of the head. [She] was transported by private vehicle to Temple Hospital where she was placed in stable condition. The scene was held. No arrest was made. No weapons recovered. The investigation is active and ongoing with the Shooting Investigation Group.” 

Jane Roh, a spokesperson for District Attorney Lawrence S. Krasner, issued this statement:

“The DA’s Office approved the charges and warrant for this defendant. The alleged crimes here are incredibly serious and have the added potential of further terrorizing trans people, who are still so vulnerable to violence and are under attack by extremists across the country who hold elected office and are members of a major political party. The DA’s Office fights every day for equal justice under the law for all Philadelphians, including LGBTQ+ people.”

In response to a question, Roh said Martinez isn’t being charged with a hate crime, noting that Pennsylvania’s hate-crimes law isn’t LGBT+ inclusive and Philadelphia hate-crimes law — while LGBT+ inclusive — only carries a summary-offense penalty.

As of presstime, police had no information regarding whether the incident would be reported as a hate crime to the Pennsylvania State Police — who compile hate-crime statistics and forward those statistics to the FBI for an annual Hate Crimes Report.

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Tim Cwiek has been writing for PGN since the 1970s. He holds a bachelor's degree in history from West Chester State University. In 2013, he received a Sigma Delta Chi Investigative Reporting Award from the Society of Professional Journalists for his reporting on the Nizah Morris case. Cwiek was the first reporter for an LGBT media outlet to win an award from that national organization. He's also received awards from the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association, the National Newspaper Association, the Keystone Press and the Pennsylvania Press Club.