Entertainment

The Death Of Latin Trap Artist Kevin Fret Is Putting A Spotlight On Heightened Violence In Puerto Rico

Latin trap singer Kevin Fret, known for being the genre’s first openly gay artist, was shot and killed on Jan. 10 in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The 24-year-old rising star was riding a motorcycle when gunshots to the head and hip sent him to the hospital. He was later pronounced dead, according to local newspaper El Vocero. The tragic news comes as Fret’s death is one of 24 homicides recorded on the island in less than two weeks.

Fret was more than just an artist on the rise but an advocate for many in the LGBTQ+ community.

Fret was notably one of the first Latin trap artists to publicly embrace his homosexuality and incorporate it into his image. His music showcased the vibrant and fierce personality that made fans adore the musician. Few in the genre have used their massive platforms to condemn violence against LGBTQ+ people like Fret did.

“Kevin was an artistic soul, a big-hearted dreamer. His passion was music, and [he] still had a lot to do. This violence must stop. There are no words that describe the feeling we have and the pain that causes us to know that a person with so many dreams has to go,” Eduardo Rodriguez, Fret’s manager said in a public statement. “We must all unite in these difficult times, and ask for much peace for our beloved Puerto Rico.”

Fret was most recognized for his creative makeup skills that shattered barriers in the Latin trap genre.

In a genre where masculinity and misogyny are prevalent, Fret was an anomaly that used his superior makeup skills to shake up the music scene. In music videos like “Diferente” (“Different”) and  “Soy Así” (“I’m Like This”), he showed his flamboyancy and unique personality that’s truly one of a kind.

The attention wasn’t always positive for Fret as he was the subject of a diss track from a fellow trap artist, Anuel AA. In 2018, Anuel released a song that featured homophobic slurs and inflammatory verses about Fret. Anuel has since apologized for the track but it was an example of the homophobia that followed Fret in his career.

Violence has plagued  Puerto Rico in recent months outlining the tragedy of Fret’s death.

With 24 murders so far this year, the island of Puerto Rico has witnessed a noticeable uptick in violence that officials are trying to control. The Puerto Rico Trans Youth Coalition said on Facebook that Fret’s murder “could be described as a hate crime.” Police so far have not ruled out the possibility of a hate crime. Gang activity, along with drug and human trafficking, is being blamed for the high levels of violent crime in Puerto Rico.

Fellow Latin trap stars, Bad Bunny and  Residente, visited the Puerto Rico Governor to discuss the recent violence on the island.

Both artists visited Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rosselló at his residence following the death of Fret. According to Billboard, they discussed recent violence and the education system in Puerto Rico. Before their meeting, the artists went on Instagram Live where they took to the streets to document themselves trying to get themselves inside Rosselló’s office.

Shortly after the meeting, Rosselló tweeted “Crime is everyone’s business. I appreciate @Residente and @sanbenito took time to talk about what we are already doing and expand the initiatives to address security.”

Fans have taken to social media to pay their respects and remember the fallen star.

Fans who hadn’t even heard of Fret paid their condolences online and highlighted what he meant not only to the Latin trap scene but to LGBTQ+ representation. People on Twitter wrote about what his music meant to them and the impact he had on their lives. Fret will be remembered for many reasons most notably his sheer presence and recognizable look. His contributions to pushing towards a more inclusive community in music won’t be forgotten anytime soon.


READ: Isabella Gomez From ‘One Day At A Time’ Is Humbled To Be An Icon To The Latinx LGBTQ Community

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The Dine and Dash of $11 Worth of Chalupas Left One Woman With Almost $500 in Fines and a Felony Conviction

Culture

The Dine and Dash of $11 Worth of Chalupas Left One Woman With Almost $500 in Fines and a Felony Conviction

tacobell / Instagram

With the advent of cuisines like Tex Mex or “Latin-Fusion” cuisines, it can be difficult to find good, authentic Mexican food out in the wild. Especially when so many non-Latinx Americans considers “authentic” Mexican food to be fast-food joints like Taco Bell and Del Taco. It’s practically a universal right for Mexican abuelas to grumble about how disgusting Americanized Mexican food is. And can we blame them? Sure, we love a Crunch Wrap Supreme as much as the next person, but the fast-food twists on Mexican classics give non-Mexicans a warped perception of what true Mexican food actually tastes like. 

And apparently, this problem has become so bad that one particular argument over the authenticity of a certain Mexican food item went all the way up to the Indiana Court of Appeals. The seedy story involves a chalupa, an argument, and an unpaid bill.

Credit: @hotforfood/Instagram

Los Amigos, an Indiana restaurant specializing in “authentic” Mexican food, took a woman named Jennifer Peru to court because she refused to pay for a chalupa that she claimed wasn’t a real chalupa.

On its surface, we can understand why Culver was confused. The chalupas that are sold at Taco Bell are described as  “a fried tortilla shell, in the shape of a small boat, filled with lots of flavorful ingredients”, and Culver may have been used to that version. But according to Los Amigos’s menu, their chalupa is “a flat tortilla with refried beans, topped with cheese and guacamole salad”. To no one’s suprrise, there is quite a stark contrast between the way a fast food joint approaches making Mexican food in comparison to the way a local, mom-and-pop store would make one. 

Credit: via GoogleMaps

The conflict, which happened on February 6, 2018, became a lot dicier after the restaurant’s manager intervened to attempt to alleviate Ms. Culver’s distress. According to court documents, the manager did everything he was supposed to do according to American standards of customer service. He offered to replace the chalupa, he offered to give Culver something different, and he offered to remove the dish and refund her money. Culver refused his offer and continued her meal with her two children (who had ordered a quesadilla and two drinks, in case you were wondering). 

Credit: via GoogleMaps

But things between Culver and Los Amigos took a turn for the worse after Culver finished her chalupa and quietly tried to leave the restaurant without paying her bill.

According to court records, Culver tried to sneak out of the restaurant by walking “briskly” past the cash register with her two children in tow. But the restaurant manager caught up to Culver in the parking lot before she could make her great escape. After being asked to pay her $11.73 bill, Culver responded that she’s “not paying for that [expletive]”. Because the manager wasn’t one to mess around with, he called the cops on the dine-and-dasher and reported her for theft. 

According to the local police, they called Culver five times asking her to pay for her stolen chalupa, and assured her that if she coughed up $12, the restaurant would not pursue legal action. But apparently, Culver was convinced that she was in the right in this situation. As promised, Los Amigos decided to press charges and Culver was convicted for theft. The charge was then elevated to felony theft after the courts discovered she had a prior conviction for the theft on her record. 

Credit: @livingkool_/Instagram

Ultimately, a jury convicted Culver of a level 6 felony theft, resulting in 120 days on electronic monitoring, and 14 months of probation, and fined a cumulative total of $485.

Culver wasn’t happy with this decision, however, and appealed the conviction in the Indiana Court of Appeals. But the Court of Appeals held up the original conviction, unanimously deciding that Culver had, indeed, unlawfully dined and dashed, veritably stealing from Los Amigos. As of now, the saga has ended. It’s safe to say that Culver learned the lesson of not messing with the manager of an authentic Mexican restaurant. 

According to some brief internet research, this isn’t the first time that Los Amigos has resorted to teaming up with law enforcement in order to combat difficult customers. One particularly salty 2019 Google review of Los Amigos claims that the restaurant stated they “were going to call the cops” if a woman attempted to not pay for her meal after she complained of its quality at the cash register. While the woman claimed she had no intention of doing so, she was still annoyed that the matter was on the verge of being escalated so abruptly. Considering this altercation happened a full year after The Chalupa Incident of 2019, it’s no wonder the staff was on edge. If there’s one thing Los Amigos doesn’t stand for, it’s claims that their food is inauthentic. 

Eight New Witnesses Implicate Stites’ Fiancé, A Former Cop, Pointing To Rodney Reed’s Innocence

Things That Matter

Eight New Witnesses Implicate Stites’ Fiancé, A Former Cop, Pointing To Rodney Reed’s Innocence

FreeRodneyReed.com

Rodney Reed is scheduled to be executed by lethal injection on Nov. 20, but eight new witnesses have come forward to corroborate Reed’s claims that the victim was in an abusive relationship with convicted felon and former cop Jimmy Fennell. Nineteen-year-old Stacey Stites was murdered in April 1996 in Bastrop, Texas. A year later, a 29-year-old black man named Rodney Reed was arrested and charged with capital murder. The prosecution argued that the presence of Reed’s semen in Stites’ body was evidence of her brutal sexual assault and murder. The all-white jury sentenced Reed to die by lethal injection, currently scheduled for Nov. 20, 2019.

Now, eight witnesses have come forward to testify to Stites’ fear of fiancé, Jimmy Fennell, who was the initial person of interest in the crime. The witnesses believe that when Fennell learned that Stites was having a consensual affair with Reed, Fennell strangled her to death.

Rodney Reed is being represented by the Innocence Project.

Rodney Reed has always claimed his innocence, and that he and Stites were in a consensual relationship. Now, witnesses have come forward to prove it.

Credit: FreeRodneyReed.com

At the time of Reed’s trial, nobody would testify to their consensual relationship. Now, two witnesses have come forward to recall Stites’ own account of her relationships with Reed and with her abusive fiancé, Fennell. One of those witnesses is Rebecca Peoples, who worked with Stites at an H-E-B grocery store. As any friendly co-workers do, Stites and Peoples confided in each other. Stites told Peoples that “she was having a relationship with a black man,” and that “she was afraid of her fiancé,” according to the most recent Writ of Habeas Corpus. Peoples never shared her testimony because she “did not realize that it was important and no one ever approached [her].”  

In addition, Stites’ own family and friends, Alicia Slater, Lee Roy Ybarra and Calvin “Buddy” Horton, have come forward to attest to the knowledge of a relationship between Stites and Reed.

The prosecution portrayed Stites’ engagement as “happy,” but new sworn testimony reveals that Fennell was abusive to Stites.

Credit: @S_PaceXM / Twitter

Former Bastrop County Sherriff’s Office Deputy, Richard Derleth, has come forward to recall what other H.E.B. employees shared with him at the time of Stites death. “Members of the [H.E.B.] staff would keep a lookout for Jimmy Fennell to see if he would come into the store,” Derleth said during sworn testimony. “They told
me that if they saw Jimmy coming into the store, they would tell Stacey
and she would run and hide from Jimmy” for fear “he would start a fight with her.” Derleth shared the information with “some members of the
Sheriff’s Office” but is “not sure what was done with the information.”

William Sappington lived below Fennel and Stites’ apartment. His son, Brent, has testified that he overheard “screaming and banging” upstairs. Brent’s wife, Vicki, recalled that her father-in-law “expressed concern that Mr. Fennell was verbally abusive toward Ms. Stites, that he feared Mr. Fennell was also
physically abusive, and that he had reported his concerns to local
law enforcement, but officers dismissed his concerns.”

Jimmy Fennell served a 10-year sentence after kidnapping and sexually assaulting a woman while on duty as a police officer.

Credit: @MutantLifeForce / Twitter

In 2008, Fennell pled guilty to kidnapping and sexually assaulting a woman he had been dispatched to protect. He also pled guilty to attempting to cover it up by threatening to kill the woman if she told anyone. While he was imprisoned, he sought protection from Arthur Snow, a member of the “whites-only” Aryan Brotherhood at the prison. “Jimmy said he needed protection from the blacks and Mexicans at the
prison,” Snow said in sworn testimony. 

Fennell traded commissary for protection, and later, while in the rec yard, Snow recalls a troubling conversation. Fennell started talking about Stites “with a lot of
hatred and resentment. Jimmy said his fiancé had been sleeping around
with a black man behind his back. By the way Jimmy spoke about this
experience, I could tell that it deeply angered him. Toward the end of the
conversation, Jimmy said confidently, “I had to kill my n****-loving
fiancé.”

Nearly 3 million Americans have signed a petition calling on Texas Gov. Greg Abbott to delay Reed’s execution.

Credit: FreeRodneyReed.com

Reed has maintained his innocence since day one. The murder weapon, a belt used for strangulation, has never been tested for DNA, despite multiple requests by Reed’s attorneys, all of which have been denied. Reed has been imprisoned for 21 years.