The November 1998 brutal murder of Rita Hester, a black transgender woman moved and inspired Gwendolyn Ann Smith to create a year later Transgender Day of Remembrance, which is observed every Nov. 20.
Sadly, this year has been a particularly difficult and fearful time for transgender Americans. At least 25 transgender people have been violently killed in 2017, more than during any other recorded year in the past decade, according to a new report from the Human Rights Campaign and the Trans People of Color Coalition: A Time to Act: Fatal Violence Against Transgender People in America in 2017. The report notes that 84 percent of the victims were people of color and 80 percent identified as female. Trans women are four times more likely than cisgender women to be homicide victims, according to the report.
“The epidemic of violence against transgender people is an urgent crisis that demands the nation’s immediate attention,” said HRC President Chad Griffin. “The unique and tragic stories featured in this report reflect the obstacles that many transgender Americans — especially trans women of color — face in their daily lives. It is crucial that we know these stories in order to combat the transphobia, misogyny and racism fueling this violence so that we can end this epidemic before it takes any more lives.”
“Each of the stories featured in this report is unique, tragic and devastating,” TPOCC Executive Director Kylar Broadus said in a statement. “Unpacking these stories is a difficult but necessary process if we as a society want to protect the most vulnerable and address the root causes for their unjust and premature deaths.”
2017 In Memoriam:
On January 4, Mesha Caldwell, 41, a Black transgender woman, was found shot to death on a road near Canton, Mississippi. Caldwell was a well-known hair and makeup artist in the area and well-liked by friends. One friend said, “I think people will miss her style, her personality. She won many hair battles, and she hosted competitions in Canton for the young people, so she will be missed greatly.” Another friend and former roommate, transgender advocate Evonne Kaho, said that Caldwell was “a happy person
who loved everyone and never met a stranger.” Misgendered in initial media reports, police are investigating her death as a homicide but no suspects have been named.
SEAN RYAN HAKE
On January 6, Sean Ryan Hake, 23, was shot multiple times by a police officer in Sharon, Pennsylvania. Hake, who had previously posted on Youtube about his own process toward self-acceptance as a transgender man, was killed in his home after Hake’s mother called 911 to report that her son was suicidal and acting violent. One friend recalled that Sean “had a genuinely good heart and he had struggled with his problems.” Police say Hake first threatened to put a razor blade to his mother’s throat and then repeatedly refused police orders to put down a utility knife before they opened fire. The District Attorney has not pressed charges, arguing that the shooting was justified. On July 21, Hake’s family filed a lawsuit against the Sharon Police Department, alleging that the officers involved in the incident violated his civil rights and used excessive force. In September, a federal judge ordered that mediation for the case be held by November.
JAMIE LEE WOUNDED ARROW
Jamie Lee Wounded Arrow, 28, an American Indian woman who identified as transgender and two-spirit, was found stabbed to death in her apartment in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, on January 6. A suspect, 25-year-old Joshua Rayvon LeClaire, has been charged with her murder. A member of the Oglala Lakota tribe, she grew up on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. According to friends, Wounded Arrow worked in customer service and loved to spend her free time at the library. She studied social work at Oglala Lakota College and nursing at a Georgetown University summer program. Friends remembered her as an honest, compassionate person who made an impact on those who met her.
“Funny and entertaining” are just a few words people used to describe JoJo Striker, 23, a Black transgender woman, who was found dead in a garage with a single gunshot wound in Toledo, Ohio, on February 8. Her family loved her deeply. Although police do not have any leads, Striker’s mother, Shanda Striker, said, “The police told us to leave it alone but that will never happen because I will always search for [JoJo’s] killer. This is a hate crime and it needs to stop.” Ohio’s hate crimes law does not include crimes motivated by gender identity. Striker was misgendered in the initial media and police reports.
Jaquarrius Holland, 18, was found shot to death with a single gunshot wound to the head in Monroe, Louisiana, on February 19. One friend, Chesna Littleberry, said that Holland was “like a younger sister” and had helped her learn to accept herself. Media coverage initially misreported Holland’s gender, and advocates did not learn that she was a transgender woman until her family and friends corrected those reports on social media. Holland, who also used the name Jaquarrius Brown, was shot after a “verbal altercation” with Malcom Derricktavios Harvey, who has been arrested, charged and awaiting trial for second-degree murder.
Tiara Richmond, also known as Keke Collier, 24, was fatally shot on the morning of February 21. A transgender woman of color, she was found dead on the same street in Chicago, Illinois, as two other transgender women who were killed in 2012. According to local media reports, Richmond was in a vehicle with a man when the man fired shots. She was found lying on the ground nearby with gunshot wounds to her chest, arm and hand, and died later that day at the hospital. Richmond was originally misgendered in media reports and by police, who do not yet have any leads on the shooter. She loved to dance, was known by friends as the life of the party, and is survived by three siblings.
Nationally known performer Chyna Gibson, 31, a Black transgender woman, was found shot to death in the parking lot outside of a clothing store in New Orleans, Louisiana, on February 25. Gibson, who went by the stage name Chyna Doll Dupree, was a much-loved performer in the ballroom and pageant communities. She was visiting friends and family in New Orleans to celebrate Mardi Gras at the time of her death. Since her death, New Orleans police have sought out multiple persons of interest for questioning, but have yet to make a statement on a suspect or whether they consider Gibson’s death to be motivated by bias.”
Ciara McElveen, 26, a transgender woman of color, was stabbed to death in New Orleans, Louisiana, on February 27. According to a witness, McElveen was stabbed by a man in his vehicle, after which the perpetrator then pulled her from the vehicle and slammed her head to the ground, before returning to the car and driving away. McElveen was taken to a nearby hospital where she later succumbed to her injuries.
Although there is some video evidence and the police were at one time questioning a person of interest, there are currently no suspects. Known by friends as a fun-loving, beautiful and outgoing person, McElveen performed outreach for the homeless community.
Alphonza Watson, 38, a Black transgender woman, was shot and killed in Baltimore, Maryland, on March 22. Witnesses told police they heard cries for help and gunshots before seeing two unidentified men speed away from the scene in a car. Watson was shot in the stomach and taken to Johns Hopkins Hospital, where she was pronounced dead shortly after arrival. Watson’s mother said her daughter went by the nickname “Peaches”and was “the sunshine of our family.” Watson loved cooking and gardening and was known to her loved ones as a “caring, passionate, fun person to be around,” who was “always in a talkative and playful mood.” According to her mother, Watson worked at an upscale retailer in Virginia where she was a top performing salesperson.
After initially misgendering her and mistaking her death for a drowning, police in San Antonio, Texas, have classified the death of Kenne McFadden, 27, as a homicide. McFadden, a Black transgender woman, was found on April 9 in the San Antonio River, into which police believe she was pushed. Friends of McFadden described her as outgoing, assertive, charismatic and lovable, calling her “everything you would expect in a friend.” McFadden worked as a waitress, enjoyed singing and poetry, and was in the process of transitioning.
Chay Reed, 28, a Black transgender woman, was shot and killed on April 21 in Miami, Florida. Reed was shot in the stomach while running across the street. Her attacker fled the scene and is still at large. Media coverage and police reports initially misidentified her gender. Police say there is “no evidence to indicate this was a hate crime” and are still looking for witnesses. Florida’s hate crimes law does not include crimes motivated by gender identity. Reed was known for her dance moves and friends say she was sweet,
hilarious and full of life.
Kenneth Bostick, 59, died on May 5 of a severe head injury sustained on April 25 in New York City. Bostick was struck in the head with a metal object, in what appears to be an unprovoked attack. Joseph Griffin, 26, was charged with manslaughter and criminal mischief on May 19. Bostick was homeless for much of the past decade and had been living in a shelter since March. According to social worker and friend
Jennifer Daisy, Bostick was the “kindest, sweetest, gentlest person.” Conflicting media reports initially led to uncertainty about Bostick’s gender identity, but interviews based on those who knew him have since confirmed that he identified as a transgender man.
Sherrell Faulkner, 46, a Black transgender woman, died on May 16 of injuries sustained during an attack on November 30, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina. Faulkner was assaulted and originally found near a dumpster in one of Charlotte’s LGBTQ-friendly neighborhoods. Friends
and family remember her as “genuine,” “hilarious” and deeply religious. After her death, the attack is now being investigated as a homicide; no arrests have been made.
KENDRA MARIE ADAMS
Kendra Marie Adams, 28, was found dead on June 13 with burns on her body in a building that was under construction in Ithaca, New York. Michael A. Davis, 45, of Dryden, has been charged with second-degree murder and first-degree arson and police say he had a “personal relationship” with Adams. Adams also went by Josie Berrios, the name used in initial media reports on her death. Although initial reports by police misgendered Adams based on her identification, police were swift to correct the record. According to friends, Adams was a mixed race woman of color, “a little latina, a little Egyptian and others all of which she was proud of.” She was a well-known local performer and a founding member of the House of Merlot.
AVA LE’RAY BARRIN
Ava Le’Ray Barrin, 17, a Black transgender woman, was shot and killed in Athens, Georgia, on June 25. She was fatally shot in the chest during an altercation with Jalen Breon Brown, 21, in the parking lot of an Athens apartment building. Brown has been arrested and charged with murder and aggravated assault. Friends remember Barrin as a “social butterfly, unapologetically real” and an “amazing girl” who “loved to make people laugh.” Barrin had ambitious goals for her life and aspired to move to Los Angeles to make her dream of becoming a model a reality.
Ebony Morgan, 28, a Black transgender woman, was shot multiple times in Lynchburg, Virginia, on July 2. Morgan was transferred to a local hospital where she succumbed to her injuries. Authorities have arrested and charged Kenneth Allen Kelly, Jr. with second degree murder and use of a firearm in commission of a felony. Police have not publicly disclosed whether the homicide was motivated by bias, but are investigating whether Morgan’s gender identity was a factor.
TeeTee Dangerfield, 32, a Black transgender woman, was shot and killed on July 31 in Atlanta, Georgia. Dangerfield was found with multiple gunshot wounds outside of her vehicle at her apartment complex. A restaurant server and union shop steward, Dangerfield had just purchased a three-bedroom house and was beloved by her colleagues as a happy, vivacious person. Tyrone Kemp has been arrested and charged with malice murder.
GWYNEVERE RIVER SONG
Gwynevere River Song, 26, was shot and killed in Waxahachie, Texas, on August 12. They died at home after an argument escalated into violence and Song was pronounced dead at the scene. Another adult, whose name has not been released, was taken to a hospital and the investigation is ongoing. Described by their mother as “incredibly smart” with a mind “like a sponge full of knowledge,” Song was a 2015
graduate of the University of Texas at Austin. According to their Facebook profile, they identified as “femandrogyne” and as a member of the bisexual community.
Kiwi Herring, 30, a married Black transgender woman and mother of three young children, was shot and killed by police in St. Louis, Missouri, on August 22 during an argument with her neighbor. Police were dispatched after Herring allegedly stabbed her neighbor. Following an altercation on the scene, police discharged their weapons. Herring was pronounced dead at the scene. Relatives suggest the neighbor was transphobic and that excessive force by police led to her death. Friends and family describe Herring as generous in spirit and “always the life of the party.”
KASHMIRE NAZIER REDD
Kashmire Nazier Redd, 28, a transgender man and person of color, was killed by his partner on September 5 in Gates, New York. Redd’s partner, Doris Carrasquillo, 40, allegedly stabbed him several times during an argument inside their shared apartment. Redd left the building and collapsed on the front lawn before Gates police responded to the incident. Redd died soon after at the hospital. Police are have ruled this a domestic violence case and Doris Carrasquillo is now facing one count of first-degree manslaughter.
Derricka Banner, 26, a Black transgender woman, was found shot to death in Charlotte, North Carolina, on September 12. Banner was a resident of Lenoir, North Carolina, and was in Charlotte visiting friends when she was shot and killed in a vehicle. Montavious Sanchez Berry was arrested by the Charlotte-Mecklenburg police in connection with the killing. Berry, 18, has been charged with murder, armed robbery and shooting into an occupied vehicle. According to her godmother, Denise Helton, the two would speak on the phone every morning to say “I love you.” Other loved ones described Banner as a “playful spirit” and “go-getter” who enjoyed life.
Ally Steinfeld, 17, a White transgender woman, was stabbed to death in Missouri in early September. Full of energy that matched her bright pink hair, Steinfeld loved listening to music and is survived by her partner, Marie Carma, who described her as “sweet, kind, loving and caring.” Steinfeld was stabbed multiple times, including in her genitals, and her eyes were gouged out by her attackers. Her body was then burned in an attempt to conceal the crime. Regardless of the brutality of her murder, police do not consider her murder a hate crime.
Scout Schultz, 21, a student at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, Georgia, was shot dead on September 16 by a Georgia Tech Police Department officer after campus police responded to a call reporting a person wielding a knife. The Schultz family attorney told local media that he believed Schultz was having a mental breakdown and that the officers overreacted in their response. Schultz identified as non-binary and intersex and used they/them pronouns. Described as an “inspirational member of our community and a constant fighter for human rights,” they were an outspoken progressive and LGBTQ rights activist, including serving as President of the Georgia Tech Pride Alliance. The shooting is currently being investigated by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.
Stephanie Montez, 47, a transgender Latina woman, was murdered on October 21 near Robstown, Texas. The police, who misgendered Montez in initial reports and called her a “man in a dress,” found her body with multiple gunshot wounds to the chest, shoulder and abdomen. The investigation into her murder is ongoing. Loved ones remember her as a sweet and supportive friend who loved to dance.
Candace Towns, 30, a Black transgender woman, was found shot to death on a driveway near where she was staying in Macon, Georgia, on October 31. A local newspaper reported that in July 2009 Towns was previously shot in the ankle, just a few blocks from where her body was found. Town’s best friend, Malaysa Monroe, remembered her fondly; “If I needed anything she would give it to me. She would give me the clothes off her back.” Police are investigating the murder and do not have any suspects.