The FBI and Houston Police Department (HPD) are searching for more information from victims of the Houston man accused of attacking a transgender woman.
On August 29, 28-year-old Houstonian Salih Alhemoud allegedly assaulted a trans woman he met through Grindr. In October, Alhemoud was charged with committing a hate crime, kidnapping, and possessing a firearm during a crime of violence, according to a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Texas.
The charges claim Alhemoud set up a date on the dating app, arrived at the woman’s home, and pulled a gun on her. He also allegedly told her that she was going to die and made statements such as “My religion considers you a demon,” and that she was “a demon like the others—all you trans people,” in addition to using other anti-LGBTQ slurs.
A federal grand jury returned the three-count indictment against Alhemoud on October 26. At a detention hearing following his arrest, Alhemoud was found to be a danger to the community and ordered into custody pending further criminal proceedings. If convicted, he faces up to life in prison.
Now the FBI and HPD are looking for others who may have been victims of Alhemoud. Those who believe they may be his victims, as well as those who have information about other possible victims of Alhemoud, should contact the FBI Houston Field Office at 713-693-5000.
“Finally, law enforcement is doing something to prevent more crimes against the trans community,” said Elia Chino, founder and executive director of Fundación Latino Americana de Acción Social (FLAS), a local nonprofit that provides health and wellness services to the LGBTQ and Latino communities in Houston. “We have been waiting for a long time for this to happen.”
November 20 was Transgender Day of Remembrance, and the National Center for Transgender Equality reported that at least 47 trans women and men had been lost to violence during the previous year. According to the Center, over 25 percent of those lost were from Texas and Florida—a statistic they attribute to the wave of anti-trans legislation in those states. According to the UCLA Williams Institute, trans people are four times more likely to experience violent crime than cisgender people, and they are also less likely to report it.
“Unfortunately, so many members are afraid to report these crimes,” Chino said. “They are afraid the attacker will come back and kill them—which is what Alhemoud allegedly told his victim. Or sometimes they are sex workers who are afraid they will be prosecuted, or maybe they don’t have [the proper] ID.”
The woman in the August 29 attack was able to escape, and she did report the incident to police along with a description of the man’s vehicle. Police were able to apprehend Alhemoud days later, after he allegedly attacked another couple while driving the same getaway car.
“Safe and secure methods on dating apps are needed to stop the targeting of transgender, femme, and gender-diverse persons,” said Verniss McFarland, the founder of The Mahogany Project. “The assaults on transgender Houstonians through Grindr are a shining illustration of this. Leaders in our communities, as well as elected officials, are being urged to submit legislation like the Chyna Gibson Bill and to collaborate with the trans community to improve current safety measures.”
“As a Black trans woman living and loving in Houston, thinking about how many Salih Alhemouds exist due to stigma and transphobia is truly frightening,” said Joelle Bayaa-Uzuri Espeut, director of programming of The Normal Anomaly Initiative. “The increasing violence trans people (especially Black trans women) unfortunately experience, whether I like to admit or not, impacts the way I personally engage with partners on an intimate level. It can be scary, especially for those that survive intimate-partner violence, to even talk about, because of the trauma and pain it causes.”
Austin Davis Ruiz, the Montrose Center’s communications and marketing manager, said they’ve already shared the FBI information via their social media because it’s important for the trans community to know about the attacks.
“On December 12, HPD Chief Troy Finner and Mayor Sylvester Turner met with club owners of LGBTQIA clubs to address concerns and issues, and we have a community liaison,” said an HPD spokesperson. “We are reaching out through our social media and continue to encourage anyone to report attacks against the community.”
If you believe you are a victim, or have any information regarding other potential victims of Alhemoud, please contact the FBI Houston Field Office at 713-693-5000, or contact HPD’s LGBTQIA+ liaison, Officer Jo Jones, at 346-577-2339.
This is a developing story that will update as news becomes available.