62.4 F
Milpitas
Thursday, October 21, 2021
-Adverstisement-spot_img
CrimeCommunity gathers to remember Natalia Smut, Black Trans woman killed in Milpitas

Community gathers to remember Natalia Smut, Black Trans woman killed in Milpitas

The last time Kiara Ohlde spoke to her cousin, Natalia Smut, was on Thursday, April 22. 

They were talking on the phone together, which was a kind of everyday ritual for the close knit duo. During this call, they reminisced on past times, laughing and even singing together at points.

When they hung up, Ohlde had no way of knowing this would be the last time she ever spoke to her cousin and best friend. 

Early the next day, at 2:29am, Smut was stabbed and killed by her boyfriend, 22-year-old Elijah Cruz Segura.

The news spread quickly through the Bay Area community, shocking many who knew Smut: 

“She had a great spirit. She was a beautiful soul, very outgoing,” said a San Jose resident named Kayla in an interview with The Beat. “We need justice.” 

At 24 years old, Smut had spent the last few years building a name for herself as a drag performer, appearing at spots across the Bay like Splash, WooWoo’s CIRQ, and Hamburger Mary’s. She even performed throughout 2019’s Silicon Valley Pride. As a Puerto Rican and Black Trans woman, she often experienced discrimination—a challenge that Ohlde says that she pushed back against, determined to carve out a career for herself as an artist.  

 

Natalia Smut (l) and her cousin/best friend Kiara Ohlde (r).

 

“Natalia was born a performer,” Ohlde said. 

As kids, both Smut and Ohlde grew up right down the street from one another in a neighborhood in East San Jose. The cousins were so close that they often thought of one another as siblings.

As a child, Smut would gather everyone in the family together in the living room and put on performances, or spontaneously burst into the kitchen and perform for whoever happened to be there.  

“She’d go in and start performing, like Christina Aguilera or Brittney Spears. She just loved to perform,” said Ohlde. “And to her, it didn’t matter that she was being discriminated against [as a performer], because performing was what she loved.”

 

Smut (l) and Ohlde (r) as children.

 

On the evening of April 25, a Vigil was held at San Jose City Hall, where family, friends, fans, and others came together to light candles, leave flowers, and write loving chalk messages on the cement. Many got up to speak with emotion about the ways in which Smut had touched their lives. 

 

People gather at San Jose City Hall to honor the life of Natalia Smut this past Saturday, April 24.

 

“This was a domestic violence case. He was abusive…” said Ohlde to the crowd that evening. “So we really need to also bring awareness to trans and domestic violence. And domestic violence in LGBTQ+ relationships.”  

Smut and her boyfriend had been dating for about six months. During that time, he was physically abusive toward Smut, and had threatened to kill her. 

“I told her to leave him,” said Ohlde. “After he told her he was going to kill her. No one just says that…”  

Smut was killed in Milpitas, at the Hillview Court Apartments, a Project Homekey location that offers housing to unhoused residents. Formerly an Extended Stay Hotel, the location officially opened to receive unhoused residents this past January. 

At present, the Milpitas Police Department (MPD) does not track data from crimes that involve a member of the LGBTQ+ community (as either victim or suspect), unless that crime is motivated by hate. The MPD’s Captain Frank Morales shared with The Beat that during the past five years, there hasn’t been any reported hate crimes “related to someone’s race or ethnicity, nationality, religion, gender, sexual orientation, physical or mental disability or association with a person or group with one or more of these actual or perceived characteristics to the Milpitas Police Department.” 

“As an organization we recognize that domestic violence in the LGBTQIA+ community is underreported and extremely dangerous to victims. We regularly explore ways to engage with those who are vulnerable to violence,” Captain Morales wrote in an email.

As far as statistics on domestic violence, the MPD shared data from this year and last. 2021 shows an increase, with 54 domestic violence incidents reported from just January through April (thus far). In 2020, 43 domestic violence cases were reported during those first four months of the year. 

 

From the Milpitas Police Department: This table breaks down statistics for misdemeanor domestic violence, felony domestic violence, and protective order violations for 2020 and YTD 2021.

 

At Saturday’s vigil, Milpitas City Councilmember Karina Dominguez was in attendance, as she felt it was important to pay tribute to Smut:

“As an elected official I wanted to be here,” said Dominguez. “It’s important to build a more inclusive community and to protect everybody from all forms of violence, but in particular dating and domestic violence. We’re seeing a rise in our region. And we need to have these conversations to make sure this doesn’t happen again.”  

At last Tuesday’s Milpitas City Council meeting, Councilmember Dominguez spoke of an idea for a policy in which hospitality and hotel workers would take part in training based on identifying victims of sexual assault and human trafficking, and in turn, the City would offer resources to support victims.  

“This has been a policy I’ve wanted to move forward for quite some time,” said Dominguez. “Human trafficking, sexual assault, and harrasment does happen in hotels. And many times workers do turn a blind eye because they don’t report it. And they’re afraid. Some workers have said they wished they knew what signs to look for.” 

Dominguez hopes to see the item as part of an upcoming Council agenda for approval and discussion within the next several weeks. 

The Human Rights Campaign recently shared that at least 17 transgender or gender non-conforming people have been killed in the U.S. since the start of 2021. Their recent report made mention that “fatal violence disproportionately affects transgender women of color — particularly Black transgender women.”

Last year, in 2020, 45 trans people were killed in the U.S.—the highest number on record. (In 2019, there were 27 reported killings of trans people; in 2018, there were 26.) Also, as some law enforcement have misgendered trans victims in the past, the number is potentially even higher.   

Ohlde started a GoFundMe page for Smut, to help support her family in their time of shock and grief. 

“When you feel like you’re in a bad situation, you need to leave. Even if you don’t think the other person’s not capable [of murder],” said Ohlde. “Because when it’s too late, it’s too late. And there’s nothing you can do.” 

 

Photo shared by: Kiara Ohlde.

 

 

 

spot_img
spot_img
Rhoda Shapiro
Rhoda Shapiro works as a journalist and media consultant in the Bay Area. She has written for both the Tri-City Voice and the Mercury News, and is the founder of Chi Media Company, which works with nonprofit organizations and educational entities to elevate their marketing and communication platforms. Rhoda is also the author of Fierce Woman: Wake up your Badass Self. Her YouTube channel, which features practices in yoga, meditation, and women’s empowerment, has amassed thousands of subscribers. Rhoda is The Milpitas Beat’s founder.

2 COMMENTS

  1. Deepest sympathies to the family and friends of Natalia Smut. This unfortunate killing looks to be a domestic dispute, rather than a hate crime. I hope it had nothing to do with transgender issues. But this gives ammunition to the critics of the Hillview Court Apartments. I hope managers of the site review their screening criteria for prospective residents.

Leave a Reply to Dallas Cancel reply

- Advertisement -spot_img
spot_img
-Adverstisement-spot_img
-Adverstisement-spot_img
-Adverstisement-spot_img
-Adverstisement-spot_img
-Adverstisement-spot_img
-Adverstisement-spot_img