“He touched a lot of lives in our community,” his friend said.
A transgender man was shot to death in Oklahoma this week, and police said they’re searching for a suspect.
The body of Dustin Parker, 25, was found Wednesday in the driver’s seat of a taxi in the city of McAlester, Sgt. Preston Rodgers of the McAlester Police Department told ABC News on Friday.
The cab had several bullet holes, Rodgers added.
Police do not yet know if Parker’s killing was motivated by the fact he’s transgender, but they are asking anyone with information to come forward.
Parker is believed to be the first transgender person killed in 2020, according to the Human Rights Campaign. In 2019, at least 25 transgender or gender non-conforming people were killed in the U.S., according to the LGBTQ advocacy group.
Parker worked as a cab driver for Rover Taxi, according to the company.
Brian West, owner of Rover Taxi and a friend of Parker’s, said the community has been devastated by his loss.
“He was a bright, young individual with a lot of potential,” West told ABC News. “He could light up a room. He knew everybody, everybody knew him. He just, I think, he touched a lot of lives in our community.”
Parker was a prominent member of the LGBTQ community in McAlester, a city about 130 miles southwest of Oklahoma City.
He founded the city’s Southeastern Equality group, which provides resources for LGTBQ individuals and their families.
He also helped spearhead the city’s first Pride Parade in October, according to West.
West, the group’s president, said Parker wanted not only to help others avoid the pain he went through growing up, but also encourage more people to speak up about human rights.
“Silence is complacency. You can’t be silent about this,” West said. “I’m gay. He’s trans. That is a minute component of who we are as people, and it shouldn’t define who we are.”
A funeral for Parker is expected to be held Monday at 10 a.m. A location has not yet been finalized.
Parker leaves behind a wife and four children, two of whom are from his wife’s previous relationship.