Remembering Alex Franco, 21-Year-Old Transgender Man “With a Big Heart” Killed in Utah

by Shoshana K. Goldberg

Alex Taylor Franco, a 21-year-old transgender man, was shot and killed in Taylorsville, Utah on March 17, 2024. Alex’s death is at least the fourth violent killing of a transgender or gender expansive person in 2024—and the second violent death to of a trans person to occur in a single week, coming just one day after Diamond Brigman was shot and killed in Houston. We say “at least” because too often these deaths go unreported — or misreported.

Alex had initially been reported missing and abducted on March 17th, after he was seen getting into a white Jeep with three passengers, at least one of which he knew. Witnesses reported hearing a gunshot inside the car, after which, it sped off with him inside, held against his will. As reported by the Taylorsville Police Department, his body was subsequently found on Tuesday March 19th in a “remote desert area” in Utah County, with a single gunshot wound. Alex had reportedly entered the car to purchase a gun from one of the three passengers, all of whom are minors. The passengers had reportedly planned to rob Alex, but an argument ensued, leading the driver, a 17-year old, to drive off with Alex held in the car against his will, and a 15-year-old, to shoot him. All three passengers have been arrested, charged, and are currently in police custody; due to being juveniles, their names have not been released to the press.

At a vigil held in his honor on Tuesday, Alex’s loved ones described him as “an athletic, cheerful man with a big heart,” who was “so much more than just Alex.” His family and friends have also started a crowdfunding campaign to raise money for funeral expenses and to support his family, stating “We love you So much Alex, we miss you. Fly high with the angles Boo.
Rest in paradise until we meet again.”

Alex was loved deeply in his life, which has tragically been cut far too short. That his killers were minors themselves only further compounds the tragedy. With his death, we have added a new state to our list of locations where fatal violence against the transgender and gender-expansive community has occurred, a list that is already far too long. The violence against our community must stop. And we at HRC won’t stop fighting until it does."

Tori Cooper, Human Rights Campaign Director of Community Engagement for the Transgender Justice Initiative

Alex is the first transgender or gender-expansive victim of fatal violence in Utah identified by HRC since tracking began in 2013. However, he is the far from the first to be killed with a gun: Over 240 transgender or gender-expansive people have been killed with guns in the last 11 years, accounting for more than 70% of all victims identified to-date. Utah is experiencing its own gun violence crisis, with rates of gun homicides increasing by 91% over the last decade, as reported by Everytown for Gun Safety.

At the state level, transgender and gender-expansive people in Utah are explicitly protected from discrimination in employment and housing, but not in education and public spaces. Utah does, however, include both sexual orientation and gender identity as protected characteristics in its hate crimes law. Though we have recently seen some political gains that support and affirm transgender people, we have also faced unprecedented anti-LGBTQ+ attacks in the states. In June 2023, the Human Rights Campaign declared a National State of Emergency for LGBTQ+ Americans, as a result of the more than 550 anti-LGBTQ+ bills introduced into state houses that year, over 80 of which were signed into law—more than in any other year. As of this writing, more than 400 anti-LGBTQ+ bills have been introduced into state houses since the beginning of 2024—and two anti-equality bills have been signed into law in Utah.

We must demand better from our elected officials and reject harmful anti-transgender legislation at the local, state and federal levels, while also considering every possible way to make ending this violence a reality. It is clear that fatal violence disproportionately affects transgender women of color, especially Black transgender women. The intersections of racism, transphobia, sexism, biphobia and homophobia conspire to deprive them of necessities to live and thrive, so we must all work together to cultivate acceptance, reject hate and end stigma for everyone in the trans and gender-expansive community.

More resources:

  • Learn more about the fatal violence cases that HRC is tracking where details are unclear. You may find a list of these cases here.
  • Watch this PSA campaign elevating stories of trans joy and love.
  • Join HRC's Count Me In campaign to take action for transgender and non-binary people.
  • Read these guidelines and this FAQ for journalists to ensure greater accuracy and respect in reporting.
  • Learn about how transgender and non-binary people are combating transphobia, stigma and anti-trans violence through our Celebrating Changemakers