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Shooting Death Of New Jersey Woman Investigated As Anti-Trans Hate Crime

Daniel L. Smith has been arrested and charged with murder after Shai Vanderpump was found shot in the face over the weekend at a house in Trenton.

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Woman's Murder Investigated As Anti-Trans Hate Crime
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Following the shooting death last week of a woman called “a fierce LGBTQ advocate", a New Jersey man has been arrested on murder charges. 

Daniel L. Smith, 36, is facing one count of murder and several weapons charges after 23-year-old Shai Vanderpump, who was trans woman, was found shot to death on Friday at a home on Kelsey Avenue in Trenton, according to local police. After officers from the county’s homicide unit responded to the home and discovered Vanderpump, she was transported to Capital Health Regional Medical Center, where she was pronounced dead. 

Garden State Equality, a New Jersey advocacy and education organization for LGBTQ individuals, tweeted about Vanderpump’s killing over the weekend.

“We are devastated to learn that Shai Vanderpump, who many know in Trenton as a fierce LGBTQ advocate, was tragically murdered this morning around 4:30 am,” the group wrote.

Authorities identified the victim by a different name when announcing charges against Smith, who they said was identified as a suspect through witness interviews and surveillance footage. He was arrested during a traffic stop on Saturday, the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office said. it is unclear if he has been arraigned yet or retained a lawyer who can speak on his behalf.

“Detectives continue to investigate what prompted the attack,” a press release from prosecutors states. “The case remains under investigation for potential bias charges as [Vanderpump] is transgender and identified as female.”

A GoFundMe page has been set up by Hollie Flowers to raise funeral funds. The page suggests that Vanderpump was killed while protecting a loved one.

“Unfortunately Shai’s death has shocked us all, We love our beloved Shai and We are asking for any donations to help with the funeral expenses to help bury our beloved Love one Shai Vanderpump!” the page’s description reads.

Vanderpump's death is one of at least 32 slayings of transgender Americas so far this year, according to data compiled by Human Rights Campaign. Since January, the Biden Administration has taken steps towards transgender equality, including addressing passport gender markers, implementing the Supreme Court’s Bostock decision across several agencies, and ending the trans military service ban.

Mercer County has been soliciting the public’s help amid the ongoing investigation. They have asked anyone with information to contact Detective Dave Petelle at 609-989-6406 or email tips to mchtftips@mercercounty.org.

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