By Jason J. Cruz
Northwest Asian Weekly
Hair stylist and business owner remembered as “gentle soul”
The Seattle Police Department is looking for persons of interest in the slaying of Rainier Valley resident Danny Vega. The well-known hairdresser was severely beaten by three youths. Vega passed away from his injuries after nearly two weeks in a coma.
According to the Seattle Police report, the Filipino American business owner was attacked by three Black males around 18 years of age at night on Tuesday, Nov. 15, at 7:45 p.m. The assault occurred in the 4200 block of South Othello Street near Martin Luther King Jr. Way South. Vega was beaten unconscious, and his cell phone, house keys, and jacket were taken.
Still photographs and a security video released by the Seattle Police show three individuals that appear to be disposing of Vega’s jacket near a dumpster.
“Detectives are following up on leads and are very grateful to the community for its help,” stated Seattle Police Sergeant Sean Whitcomb. He added that if there are people that might know more information about the crime, they should come forward. Crimestoppers of Puget Sound is offering a reward of $1,000 leading to the arrest and charge of those responsible for the attack on Nov. 15.
Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn met with Vega’s roommate and family members before a community meeting at the Filipino Community Center last week to discuss the violent crime that claimed Vega’s life. McGinn stated that finding the individuals is the police department’s highest priority.
McGinn acknowledged the fact that Vega’s slaying could be a hate crime. “Our police department is investigating this possibility,” McGinn added. “Ultimately, whether it is a hate crime will rest with the prosecutor.”
McGinn noted the resounding support after the assault. “I was struck by the depth of the community’s concern of his passing. He was an active and engaged member of the Filipino Community,” said McGinn.
At this point, Seattle Police don’t know the reasons for the attack. Whitcomb stated that there are persons of interest that the police would like to talk to and get into custody. While there is speculation that Vega may have been targeted because he was openly gay, authorities are treating the investigation as a homicide at this point.
“The hate part of the crime may happen if we are able to determine motive,” stated Whitcomb. “At this point, there is speculation that the motive for the attack is bias or hate because the victim was openly gay.” He added that it could also have been for money. “[T]he motive could have been greed because he was robbed.”
Vega ran an unassuming hair salon, Danny Vega’s Hair Design, off of Martin Luther King Jr. Way in the Rainier Valley. He spent more than 20 years in the same location and became the hub of hair design for many local Filipinos. Vega was an active member of the community, and he was known for his friendliness and gentle nature.
“They say a great haircut can really make a person,” wrote Jess Estrada in a blog post reminiscing about her childhood days seeing Vega. “That usually meant a trip to Danny Vega’s. … My dad took my sibling and [me] there a lot when we were kids. They’d chat while we took turns in Danny’s chair, getting our ‘hair did.’ ”
“The most important thing about Danny is that he was a business pioneer,” said Marvin Rosete, a board member of the Filipino Chamber of Commerce. “Not only was he a hairdresser, he was one of the most well-known [business persons] of his generation that people flocked to.”
“The fact that he was openly gay back in the 1980s — a lot of people were very accepting of who he was,” said Rosete.
Despite the unfortunate circumstances, Filipino Community of Seattle President Alma Kern notes that Vega’s death has brought the community together. “The support that the Filipino community is receiving just amazes me,” Kern added. “The LGBT Community has been so supportive; the African American community has been supportive; our business neighbors have offered support.”
She notes that the Spanish community canceled a community gathering this Saturday in honor of Vega’s funeral, which will be held on Dec. 10. “It just speaks to the kind of city we have and that we have a very compassionate city.”
“We always saw him as one of our members,” Kern recalled of Vega. “He was a gentle soul that came here (Filipino Community Center), smiled, and said ‘OK, I’m here.’ ”
“He will be most remembered for his participation in our men’s Filipino Community Gay Contest,” said Kern, “He always participated with such flare, and his gowns were so creative and beautiful.” Vega made his own gowns for the event.
“Danny had lots of friends and always remembered the names of people he met,” said Kern.
Vega’s death underscores community concern over safety in the area.
“We are concerned because there have been other beatings,” said McGinn of other vicious assaults in the area. “We’ll be working with the community on how to make it safer.”
“Safety in the community requires that there is a partnership,” said McGinn. He stressed that the police are reaching out to the community and asked for the community to help the police. “Crimes like this require community engagement.”
The funeral for Danny Vega will be held on Saturday, Dec. 10, at 10 a.m. at St. Edward Church in the Rainier Valley. (end)
Police are still looking for Vega’s attackers. Anyone with information should call the Seattle Police Homicide and Assault Unit at 206-233-5000. Callers can remain anonymous.
Jason Cruz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.