An 18-year-old lesbian is among three people shot dead in what police believe to be a tragic “domestic murder-suicide”.
Lauren ‘Lela’ Leslie was shot dead along with her girlfriend’s parents as she visited the family home in Windsor Locks, Connecticut on Friday (28 May).
Her girlfriend, who is also 18, was left with multiple gunshot wounds and rushed to hospital where she remains in critical condition following surgery. Another adult man in the home also was located unharmed but is not a suspect.
Speaking to WFSB, Lela’s older brother, Jhavier Leslie, described his sister as “a proud, Black, lesbian woman”. While police say a motivation is still unclear, Lela’s family believe homophobia was a factor.
“I love her and miss her dearly,” Jhavier told the Hartford Courant. “It’s hard to go through this new reality of not having her here, but I think this is a part of a bigger issue in society that needs to be addressed, of just homophobia and the dangers around that.
“I’m going to miss her, I love her so much, I just can’t believe this is happening. This is just a nightmare for everybody. My mom’s literally in the hospital, she had a panic attack because it feels so unreal.”
Lela and her girlfriend were “beautiful, soft-spoken souls,” he said, who had been together for around a year.
Both women had embraced being lesbian but were able to be more open with the Leslies, where they spent more time as they felt less comfortable at Lela’s girlfriend’s home.
“I am a gay man as well. I know [Lela] struggled to come to terms with herself,” Jhavier said. “She spent her whole life barely talking because she was afraid of who she was.
“And she finally gained the strength to realise who she is, so it’s very difficult for me to know that now, her being her true self and living in her reality, this is the result of that in my eyes. I feel like it wouldn’t have happened it wasn’t for that.”
He hopes an investigation will determine whether the tragedy was “rooted in hate or if this has anything to do with homophobia”.
“But I think the ultimate message, at least for me, is that this is a part of a greater issue in our society,” he continued. “Especially in Black communities, it’s very difficult for us. We don’t have many safe spaces, even with our family.”
Detectives believe the incident was likely a “domestic-related murder-suicide” and that the assailant was one of the three dead.
The first arriving officers entered the home and immediately encountered one man and two women showing “no signs of life”, who were pronounced dead at the scene by paramedics, police lieutenant Paul Cherniack said.
They followed a blood trail into a different room, where they found the critically injured woman, and later discovered the last man unharmed elsewhere in the residence.
The shooting may have started after an argument broke out between several of the victims, neighbours told police.
“Right now everything is very sketchy, probably because of the hour, people just aren’t around,” Cherniack said.
“There’s been reports that they heard an argument just before they heard a popping sound. We have nothing to report on that address involving these parties, we don’t have a history on them at all. A very bad scene unfortunately.”