PORTLAND, Texas -- Two teenage girls found shot in a South Texas park are inspiring vigils nationwide, with some activists calling the incident a hate crime because the victims had a romantic relationship, and others feeling an emotional connection with them through Facebook postings and pictures, authorities say.
A call to honor the girls, one who survived and the other who died, went out on Facebook earlier this week. On Monday, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights activist and founder of the AIDS Memorial Quilt, Cleve Jones, posted a plea for the nation to get involved by hosting vigils. Organizations from California to Washington D.C. already are planning events.
"Whoever shot Mary Christine Chapa and Mollie Judith Olgin, whatever the motive, regardless of where it happened, two beautiful girls were shot and one was killed. We need to honor the memory of Mollie and pray for the recovery of Mary. Please, take some time to organize public vigils for Mollie and Mary in your communities this week," Jones wrote to nearly 5,000 Facebook friends.
Since his first posting, vigils were organized in 12 cities. The first was held Wednesday in San Francisco.
Olgin and Chapa were found Saturday morning by visitors to Violet Andrews Park in Portland, Texas. The shootings marked the first homicide in Portland this year and have left the community in shock.
Olgin, 19, died at the scene, and Chapa, 18, is listed in stable condition at a Texas hospital.
The Texas Rangers are assisting in the investigation.
News organizations brought nationwide attention to the late Friday shooting of the two teens, emphasizing their romantic relationship. Many questioned if the teens were shot as a hate crime.
The national attention for the shooting began because of public speculation that they were killed due to their sexual orientation, said Michael Diviesti, a lead organizer for Get Equal Texas, an advocacy group. But now, people have established an emotional connection with the teens and care for them, he said.
"These two ladies were so young and had their lives ahead of them and had so much left to give to the world," he said. "It's certainly emotional."
Diviesti said he would have organized the vigils even if the girls weren't lesbians because the shooting was a horrific act.
Portland Police Chief Randy Wright has said there is no evidence that the shooting was a hate crime.
Wright could not be reached for comment Wednesday, but he did release an incident report of Friday's shooting. In the report, the shooting is not documented as a hate crime.
(Contact Michelle Villarreal of the Caller-Times in Corpus Christi, Texas, at www.caller.com.)