A beloved advocate for the LGBTQ community of Philadelphia has been shot and killed. The death marks the fifth known killing of a transgender person in the United States in the year 2019.
Michelle "Tamika" Washington was fatally shot on the morning of May 19. Police responded to the scene at 5:07 a.m. She had suffered multiple gunshot wounds to the head, body and buttock, according to police. She was pronounced dead upon her arrival at Temple University Hospital at 5:33 a.m.
No arrests had been made in connection with the killing as of May 20, according to WPVI of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
The Philadelphia Police Department’s homicide division says the investigation is ongoing.
Philadelphia Police Department Captain Sekou Kinebrew told Philadelphia Gay News via email that no suspects have been identified and that the killing “doesn’t appear” to have been motivated by Washington's gender identity.
“However, the investigation is still in the early stages, and it would be premature to rule out the possibility of a hate crime,” Kinebrew wrote.
Philadelphia City Council at-large candidate Deja Lynn Alvarez described Washington as a "no-nonsense" person who "didn't take s--t from anyone." She stressed the impact of the death specifically on the transgender community.
"It's very important that we stress that because we're not seeing LGB people murdered every other day," Alvarez told Philadelphia Gay News. "It's time that we say this is happening to trans women, it's happening to black trans women, it's happening to trans women of color ... It's time that we shift the focus to that."
LGBTQ organizations in Philadelphia also expressed their sadness over the death. Amber Hikes, the executive director of Philadelphia’s Office of LGBT Affairs, described Washington as a "brilliant and outgoing member of Philadelphia’s transgender community."
“[Washington] was known for her advocacy and mentorship, and she will be profoundly missed. The epidemic of violence that continues to plague the transgender community—disproportionately impacting trans women of color— is heartbreaking, frightening, and infuriating,” said Hikes to CBS Philly.
Raquel Evita Saraswati, chair of Mayor Jim Kenney’s Commission on LGBT Affairs, said that Washington will be mourned "today and in the years to come."
“The news of the murder and death of Michelle ‘Tamika’ Washington has hit so many in our community hard. More than a news story, she was a friend, a loved one, a beloved. The Mayor’s Commission on LGBT Affairs offers our solidarity, our commitment to #SayHerName, and a commitment to ending the plague of anti-black, anti-trans, and queerphobic violence that plagues not just our nation, but our own local community. Our community is nothing without black trans women ... We pledge to not let her loss be in vain, and to stand with those who both endure and combat this violence on a daily basis,” said Saraswati to CBS Philly.
Only one day prior, a transgender woman of color named Muhlaysia Brown had been shot to death in Dallas, Texas. The deaths demonstrate the disproportionate amounts of violence faced by transgender people — and specifically transgender women of color — according to the Human Rights Campaign, an LBGTQ advocacy group.
Although an uptick in anti-transgender violence is observable, the deaths of transgender people may be under-reported due to frequent inaccuracies in the way police organizations release information about the names and identities of transgender individuals, according to the New York Times. Police are not required to maintain a database on the subject.
Anyone with information regarding Washington’s death is being urged to contact police at 215-686-TIPS.
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