Recent high school graduates Mollie Olgin, 19, and Kristene Chapa, 18, were recently shot in the head while walking through a community park in Portland, Texas – a tragedy that has set off a nationwide series of vigils.
The lesbian couple was found Saturday morning by park visitors, with wounds to their heads from a large caliber weapon. Olgin died at the scene of the crime; Chapa is in critical but stable condition at a local hospital.
An Austin vigil for Olgin and Chapa, organized by grassroots LGBT advocacy group GetEQUAL, is happening tonight.
“What’s compelling to the LGBT community is in part the fact that all of us feel connected as a community,” said Michael Diviesti, an organizer for the Austin vigil. “When something happens within our community, it affects us.”
Portland Police Department Chief Randy Wright said that there is no evidence the shootings were “committed as a bias against the girls or their lifestyle.”
Nevertheless, Wright said that he was shocked by the double-shooting in the usually quiet Portland community, reported the Corpus Christi Caller Times.
Sexual orientation was the second most frequent motivation for hate crimes, according a 2010 crime report by the Texas Department of Public Safety.
“Regardless of their sexual orientation, regardless of whether or not this crime might have been motivated by bias, there is this large outpouring, just because it is such a tragic loss of life,” said Chuck Smith from gay rights group Equality Texas.
Nevertheless, Smith – like Diviesti – acknowledged that whether police call the shooting a hate crime or not, members of the LGBT community are especially aware of the awful incident.
“Currently there is not any evidence to indicate that it was motivated by bias,” Smith said. “It's important not to jump to conclusions, but at the same time, people are cognizant that LGBT people can be, and are, the targets of bias-motivated crimes.”