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Texas: Popular drag performer dies in police custody

Police say Mercedes Demarco was combative and confirm using a taser during the arrest

El Paso, Texas, drag performer Mercedes Demarco died in police custody after being arrested. Credit:

El Paso police are awaiting the outcome of an autopsy and toxicology tests following the death of popular drag performer Mercedes Demarco, who died in their custody last weekend, El Paso Times reports.

According to the report, a witness to the arrest of Demarco (also known as Fernando Gomez) says he was awakened by shouting and saw a barefoot man in a dress ringing a motel office buzzer and calling for help.

The witness, Jaime Gonzalez Licon, told the Times that about four officers who arrived on the scene struggled to subdue Demarco, cuffed her and put her in a patrol car. He also says he thought police used a taser on Demarco, who he described as uncooperative and "hysterical like he was afraid." Police, who confirm they used a taser during the arrest, say Demarco was "unresponsive" as they headed to the downtown command centre. Demarco was taken to a medical centre, where she was pronounced dead.

Both the police crimes-against-persons unit and the internal affairs division are investigating Demarco's death.

A fellow drag performer described Demarco as a role model for up-and-coming drag artists.

"In drag culture, all of your pupils take your last name. She had many, many daughters that she had mentored. She was one of the founding performers in this generation," says Barbie, who told the Times she last saw Demarco perform at a downtown club Oct 12.