‘Selfless’ trans man killed in hit and run while walking home from work

Matthew Angelo Spampinato, a white trans man, is seen holding a small child

A young trans man, who had a “smile that could turn a day around”, was killed in a hit and run car crash while he was walking home from work. 

Matthew Angelo Spampinato, 21, was walking home from his job at the Hares Corner Starbucks in New Castle, Delaware on the evening of 9 February. 

He was taking his usual path along State Route 237 while walking from the Starbucks back to his home. According to the Delaware News Journal, he had almost reached the intersection with Quigley Boulevard when he was killed in a hit and run crash.

A Delaware State Police spokesman told the news outlet that investigators do not have any new leads on the driver that killed him.

Spampinato’s cousin Morgan Hanners told the Delaware News Journal that he grew up in Georgia but had always planned to move out of the South one day. 

Hanners said her cousin decided to live in Delaware after visiting a friend last summer. She said he fell in love with the state and even returned his plane ticket home just so he could stay there. 

“He was very headstrong,” Hanners recalled. “Once he set his mind on something, he went with it.”

Samantha Strothmann, one of Spampinato’s co-workers, said the trans man was one of the first new hires after the Hares Corner Starbucks opened in October. 

Strothmann remembered helping with his training when their shifts overlapped and describing Spampinato as a “selfless” man.

“He was always so selfless,” Strothmann said. “He would always ask how everybody was doing even when he wasn’t having a good day himself.”

Many customers at the Starbucks location described Spampinato as a “breath of fresh air”, bright and kind. 

Strothmann said many of the baristas are “still grieving”, and they had set up a memorial in the store to honour Spampinato.

The memorial included a green apron covered in messages from his co-workers as well as flyers for a GoFundMe campaign to bring Spampinato’s killers to justice.

The campaign’s creator acknowledged that the wording on the online fundraiser does misgender and deadname Spampinato. According to the creator, Spampinato’s mother will acknowledge his identity as Matthew. 

The Delaware News Journal reported that Spampinato often shared updates about his transition on his Instagram. He shared in January that he had begun gender-affirming hormone therapy, saying he waited four years to get to the prescription. 

Spampinato described in another post how he realised he was not cisgender when he was 13 years old. He said that not everyone in his life was supportive, but he said he appreciated those who were. 

Spampinato is at least the fifth trans or gender-non-conforming person to have been killed in 2022, according to the Human Rights Campaign (HRC)

Tori Cooper, the HRC’s director of community engagement for the Transgender Justice Initiative, called Spampinato’s death “tragic”. But she said the “one shining light was that he lived his life surrounded by people who loved and respected him”. 

“He was living his dream with a healthy support system,” Cooper said. “With all of the challenges trans and non-binary people face in society, including a disregard for our lives, it is so important for allies to celebrate and uplift our community.”

She added: “May Matthew never be forgotten by those who loved him and those who hold our community dear.”

The community has mourned across 2022: Amariey Lej, Duval PrincessCypress Ramos and Naomie Skinner.