SARASOTA - Police are investigating whether a shooting in Sarasota Tuesday night was a hate crime, because one of the men shot is in the process of changing his gender to become a woman.
Sarasota Police continue to search for the man accused the shooting. They say they have a repeat offender on their hands who was recently released from prison for murder.
The suspect is 39-year-old Joseph Lamar. He was convicted of 2nd -degree murder in a killing back in December of 1991. He got a sentence of 25 years, but got out of prison in September of last year.
The address Lamar told prison officials that he lived after his release is on Gillespie Street in Newtown.
Police continue to look for him and consider him armed and dangerous.
The shooting happened Tuesday around 10pm in the area of 32nd Street and Lemon Avenue. That's where they say Lamar shot the two people: one a 22-year-old man dressed in women's clothes who had to be flown to Blake Medical Center in Bradenton; the other a 19-year-old man who was taken to Sarasota Memorial.
Police originally thought that one victim was a woman, because one of the men wore women's clothing at the time of the shooting, and his driver's license identifies him as female. Turns out he is transgendered, but has not had the surgery to become a woman.
Lamar faces serious charges from the shooting itself, but could face more if police learn that it connects to a victim's gender. “If we find out that it is involved with a hate crime, we will aggressively go after bringing charges. Right now we have no evidence of that specifically,” says Sarasota Police Chief Bernadette DiPino.
Police believe there may also be a second person involved with the shooting.
If you know where Lamar might be or have any information on this case, Sarasota Police ask you to call them at 954-7025.