Reyna Hernandez, Latina trans woman, salon owner, and “vibrant spirit,” killed in Washington State

by Shoshana K. Goldberg

Reyna Hernandez, a 54-year-old Latina transgender woman, was shot and killed in Renton, Washington on February 26, 2024. She is at least the 13th transgender or gender-expansive person violently killed since the start of 2024. We say “at least” because too often these deaths go unreported — or misreported.

Reyna’s case was initially covered in our Additional Concerning Deaths reporting, as our Fatal Violence Report only tracks deaths that occur in the United States, and at the time her body was recovered, it was unclear whether her death had occurred in the United States or Mexico. However, with the emergence of information in early May that Reyna was killed in Renton, we are now including Reyna in our official Fatal Violence reporting.

Reyna was initially reported missing on February 28th, after having last been seen on the 26th when she left her home in Renton to run errands. Tragically, on March 2, 2024, Reyna was found dead from a gunshot in a cemetery in Mexicali, Mexico with her body tied to a nearby tree; evidence suggests she had also been tortured prior to her death. The Renton Police Department, working with Mexican authorities and Reyna’s family, were able to confirm the body was Reyna’s on March 8th. Authorities have charged her former romantic partner, Louie “Alex” Hernandez, who was recently arrested in Mexico on unrelated charges, with first-degree murder in Washington State, and the King County Prosecuting Attorney's Office and the U.S. Department of Justice are working to have him extradited to the United States. Evidence suggests Louie shot and killed her in his home, before driving her body to Mexico, where it was ultimately recovered.

Reyna, who had been born in Mexico, and moved to the United States when she was 19, owned Reyna’s Hair Salon in Renton, the fulfillment of a childhood dream. She was described by friends and family as a “happy, loving person,” and a “dreamer” who was “hard-working and kind.” Speaking to the Kent Reporter, her close friend Nancy Ossorio noted “Reyna wasn’t just a stylist...People would show up for a haircut, but in reality, what people would come to fix were their emotions and heart.” At a prayer service held in her honor, which followed a novenario, or nine-day morning prayer, Reyna’s sister, Ivonne Carrillo Hernandez, called her “a spark” with “a vibrant spirit.” A family friend, Frances Macias, noted Reyna “wasn’t just a friend to many, but a part of their community.”

Reyna was a loving sister, friend, neighbor, and community member. She had just started dating someone new and was fulfilling her childhood dream of owning a salon. She should be here today, happily enjoying the beautiful life she was building for herself. Instead, we are mourning her passing, and decrying the tragedy of another trans woman lost to gun violence and domestic violence.”

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

Though some outlets have described her killer, as her current romantic partner, reporting from People states they had broken up, and she had been visiting him at his home to “finalize the breakup,” when he shot and killed her. Reyna’s family confirmed that she had been previously been abused by him, reporting that she had shown up to her salon with a black eye before going missing. Tragically, interpersonal violence accounts for a significant number of fatalities against transgender and gender expansive people. A report by the HRC Foundation, “The Epidemic of Violence Against the Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming Community in the United States: The 2023 Report found that between 2013 and 2023, more than one in five (22.4%) transgender and gender-expansive people with known killers had their lives taken by an intimate romantic or sexual partner.

Reyna is also the 8th transgender or gender-expansive person to lose their life to gun violence since the start of 2024, and the 247th since HRC began tracking fatal violence against the community in 2013. Gun violence and interpersonal violence unfortunately often go hand in hand: to-date, almost six in ten trans and gender-expansive victims of fatal violence who were killed by an intimate partner, were killed by a gun.

At the state level, transgender and gender-expansive people in Washington State are explicitly protected from discrimination in employment, housing, education and public spaces. Washington includes both sexual orientation and gender identity as a protected characteristic in its hate crimes law. And yet, Reyna is the fifth transgender or gender-expansive person to lose their life to fatal violence in the state in the last five years. 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, over 400 anti-LGBTQ+ bills have been introduced into state houses since the beginning of 2024, with more than 25 anti-LGBTQ+ bills passing to-date.

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.
  • 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 series.