An LGBT disc jockey was shot and killed near a Tenderloin strip club early Saturday morning in an attack that an attorney for the victim is calling a hate crime.
Anthony Torres, an activist, artist and performer who is known as Bubbles, was fatally shot at 3 a.m. outside the New Century strip club on Larkin and Myrtle streets, according to friends, neighbors and his attorney.
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The sidewalk in front of the New Century theater is still stained with blood, apparently from an altercation linked to the shooting.
As word of the killing spread Sunday, friends brought photographs of Torres to the scene of the homicide. The pictures show him riding a bicycle in high heels and beaming in a black and white dress.
Someone placed a sign that read “Rest in Power Bubbles” on the sidewalk public restroom across from the New Century where Torres is believed to have been shot. A passerby walked by the memorial Sunday evening and muttered “not Bubbles” in disbelief.
“This is a hate crime,” said attorney Jim Reilly, who has previously represented Torres. “For a transgender activist to be gunned down on [his] own street shouldn’t stand and won’t stand.”
The Tenderloin has historically been a safe place for gay and transgender residents of The City. The neighborhood birthed one of the first riots for transgender rights at Compton’s Cafeteria in 1966. A historic gay bar called the Gangway is also on the block where Torres was shot.
Though his attorney initially referred to Torres as a transgender woman, friend and local DJ Buckner Williams said Torres identified as a gay man “who enjoyed wearing women’s clothing and makeup.”
“You always knew when Bubbles was in the room or in the building. He was larger than life but at the same time on a one-on-one level was one of the most dearest and compassionate people I knew,” Williams said. “If Bubbles came to your party, you knew it was a good f—ing party.”
Williams said Torres was a known presence in the underground techno and house music scenes in San Francisco.
“He was a very public figure in our world and I expect our community to respond to this heavily,” Williams said. “There’s going to be a lot of anger.”
On Sunday evening, a barber named Nigel Kennedy leaned against his motorcycle staring at the sidewalk memorial for Torres. Kennedy said he had known Torres for five years through the nightlife scene.
“It just doesn’t add up,” Kennedy said. “He could make anybody smile. I’m still kind of in shock.”
Supervisor Jane Kim, who represents the Tenderloin on the Board of Supervisors, said that police do not yet have enough information to call the killing a hate crime but have surveillance footage and a person of interest.
“This homicide is a very unfortunate and tragic incident,” Kim said. “He was one of those San Francisco personalities.”
Kim said the permit for the New Century strip club to operate should be “re-examined” because of the homicide.
San Francisco Police Department spokesperson Officer Giselle Linnane confirmed Sunday that a homicide occurred at the intersection. Linnane said the victim “was transported to the hospital and pronounced deceased.”
Police have yet to release suspect information.
The Medical Examiner’s Office will not be open to confirm the identity of the victim until Monday morning.
The killing marks yet another homicide in an already bloody year for The City. There were 45 homicides in San Francisco as of the first week of September — 15 more than at this time last year, the Examiner previously reported.
Matt Haney, a Board of Education member who lives around the corner from the killing on Geary Street, said he was awake sending emails when he heard three to four gunshots and “someone scream.”
“It’s just devastating to know that somebody lost their life, somebody who brought joy and spirit to our community,” Haney said. “The City has a responsibility to protect all of its residents and its most vulnerable members from violence. I hope that our city responds with urgency… to find the perpetrator.”
Neighbor David Elliott Lewis, who said he woke up to the sound of multiple gunshots, called the killing “extremely upsetting.”
“The police have been treating our neighborhood as a crime containment zone, for example allowing round the clock drug dealing on my corner,” said Lewis, who lives near O’Farrell and Larkin streets. “It draws in crime, it draws in people who are high on coke and who are easily triggered.”
Friends planned to hold a vigil for Torres at the scene of the crime around 7 p.m. on Sunday.
Editor’s note: This story has been corrected and updated to reflect the victim’s preferred gender pronoun.