McAlester police are investigating after a man was found fatally shot inside a taxi early Wednesday.
The shooting occurred in the 200 block of West Delaware Avenue about 6:30 a.m. Wednesday, Capt. Kevin Hearod of the McAlester Police Department said.
A responding officer found a Rover electric taxi that had been hit by gunfire multiple times, Hearod said. Dustin Parker, 25, was found dead in the driver's seat.
"We've still got investigators out running down leads right now," Hearod said. "(Parker was) just a working man, making a living for his family, and he didn't get to come home."
Parker, who was transgender, was a founding member of Oklahomans for Equality McAlester, according to a post on the group's Facebook page.
The group has organized a Facebook fundraiser benefiting Parker's family. He reportedly is survived by his wife and four children. Brian West, who created the fundraiser, said in a statement that Parker "will be missed but never forgotten."
"Dustin was a steadfast friend, an amazing husband and father, and generous to a fault," West said. "He loved fiercely, worked tirelessly, and took on life with so much hope and enthusiasm that his presence brightened all of our lives. His bright, young life was taken far too early."
Hearod said that as of Wednesday evening, investigators hadn't found any evidence to suggest that Parker was targeted because he was transgender.
"Right now, it doesn't look that way," Hearod said. "But obviously, we're not taking anything off the table. … We don't have anything indicating that right now."
Nationally, at least 24 transgender or gender-nonconforming people were killed in 2019, the Human Rights Campaign reported. The National Center for Transgender Equality reports on its website that "transgender people face extraordinary levels of physical and sexual violence, whether on the streets, at school or work, at home, or at the hands of government officials. More than one in four trans people has faced a bias-driven assault."
In McAlester, the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation processed the crime scene. Hearod said the call came in during a shift change, allowing two shifts of officers, along with tracking dogs from the Oklahoma Department of Corrections, to canvas the area for leads. Shell casings reportedly were recovered at the scene, but the dogs reportedly failed to pick up a trail on any potential suspects.
Hearod said investigators spoke to several people in the area who heard the gunshots, but given the New Year's Eve celebrations hours earlier, he said some wrote them off as celebratory until police cars showed up that morning.