A 36-year-old drag performer died in police custody in El Paso, TX in the early hours of Sunday morning. According to the El Paso Times, Fernando Gomez — who performed under the name Mercedes Demarco — was acting irrationally when police arrested her and used a Taser to subdue her.
Gomez was a longtime veteran of the West Texas drag scene and other performers told the Times that Gomez’s death is a tragedy for them and for their community.
“She had this beautiful grace about her. She had a kindness to her face,” said a fellow drag artist named Barbie. “She always had this beautiful kindness to her. She was a lady when I would see her around town.”
“She was actually a role model for a lot of the younger ones,” Barbie said. She explained that other drag performers in El Paso use the Demarco name as a tribute to their mentor, Mercedes. “In drag culture, all of your pupils take your last name. She had many many daughters that she had mentored. She was one of the founding performers in this generation.”
Jaime Gonzalez Licon, 58, told the Times that he was awakened by shouts at the Budget Lodge in the Sunset Heights area of El Paso around 4:00 a.m. on Sunday. He stepped outside to smoke a cigarette and saw a man in a dress in the hotel parking lot yelling frantically and ringing the bell for the hotel manager’s office.
Within minutes, said Gonzales, police where on the scene. They cuffed Gomez and used a taser to subdue the performer, who reportedly became combative.
“He was hysterical like he was afraid – really really afraid,” Gonzalez said. “He got out screaming and yelling. He was hysterical. He didn’t cooperate at all. He was irrational.”
According to police, Gomez became “unresponsive” during transport to the Central Regional Command Center in downtown El Paso. Police attempted first aid and paramedics rushed Gomez to the Las Palmas Medical Center where she was pronounced dead.
Barbie wondered to the Times if the shock of the Taser killed Gomez.
“The cops are never really nice to us,” she said, “especially when you are transgender.”
David Ferguson is an editor at Raw Story. He was previously writer and radio producer in Athens, Georgia, hosting two shows for Georgia Public Broadcasting and blogging at Firedoglake.com and elsewhere. He is currently working on a book.
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