HARLEM — Hundreds of people, including grieving friends, transgender activists and politicians, gathered in Jackie Robinson Park in Harlem Tuesday night to remember Islan Nettles, the 21-year-old transgender woman who was fatally beaten in a possible bias attack on Aug. 17.
"She inspired my life," said Deaquan Andino, who worked with Nettles at Harlem fashion house Ay'Medici.
Andino, 25, recalled Nettles as "a wonderful person," adding that he was sad he "won't be able to see her bright future."
Nettles' mother, Delores Nettles, promised justice would come to the attacker.
"Now the fight is for Islan. That's the fight I have to fight," she said. "What happened was a tragedy and it's not going to happen again. I'm going to make sure that it does not happen again. I want justice. I want that."
Mayoral hopefuls Christine Quinn and William de Blasio attended the rally to offer their support, but did not address the crowd.
The altercation that led to Nettles' death began when the victim and a group of friends started flirting with a group of men that they met at West 148th Street and Frederick Douglass Boulevard, cops said.
Paris Wilson, 20, a business administration major from Buffalo State University, became enraged after his friends teased him about flirting with a transgender woman, police said.
Wilson then began hurling homophobic slurs and punches at Nettles, knocking her down and continuing to pummel her on the sidewalk.
She was taken to Harlem Hospital, police said, where she lingered for about a week until being taken off life support.
But NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly told DNAinfo on Tuesday that those charges will change.
"We did initially charge someone with it. It was first charged as a simple assault — it's now being changed. Obviously the victim died. We're waiting for the grand jury to proceed, so we're working closely with the district attorney in this regard. We'll see what happens," Kelly said.
The case was delayed after Wilson's mother allegedly "coerced" one of his friends into providing a false confession, police sources said.
As of Tuesday evening, the NYPD could not confirm the identity of Wilson's friend, but a police spokesman told DNAinfo he did not think the friend or any person other than Wilson would be charged.
Kelly did not respond to DNAinfo's questions about the false confession, but he did acknowledge a delay to initially classify the attack as a hate crime.
"We weren't able to talk to the victim. I think that's what slowed it down," he said.
The case was also delayed because cops at the Police Service Area 6 station house, near where the attack occurred, did not immediately alert detectives because they initially thought Nettles had only suffered minor injuries, sources said.