After learning of the murder of a trans woman each week within the first seven weeks of 2015, trans advocates have breathed easier throughout March and April, while still continually calling for national attention to this deadly "epidemic." Yesterday, news of an eighth murder emerged.
London Chanel, a 21-year-old black trans woman, was found shortly after midnight Monday in front of an abandoned North Philadelphia house, deceased from two stab wounds to her back and one to the neck, reports Philadelphia NBC affiliate WCAU. Chanel had moved to the city several years earlier from her hometown of Victoria, Texas, where she reportedly lived in a youth shelter.
The fatal altercation began with a verbal fight between Chanel and a 31-year-old man inside the house, according to a witness statement to police. After stabbing Chanel, the man, whose name has not been released, and the witness reportedly carried Chanel's body outside the house, placed her on quilts, and began attempting to perform CPR. When the pair saw a School District of Philadelphia officer, they flagged him down, and he called Philadelphia police. Rushed to a hospital, Chanel was declared dead on arrival.
Both the assailant and the witness have been taken into custody but do not currently face charges, according to WCAU. The alleged assailant had a pocketknife, believed to be the murder weapon, on him when he was apprehended.
Chanel, like many trans female victims of violence, was originally identified as a "man" in police reports, and accordingly reported by the local news station as such, notes BuzzFeed News. Nellie Fitzpatrick, the director of the Mayor's Office of LGBT Affairs for the City of Philadelphia, told the news site that she heard an "immediate outcry" from community members over the misgendering. She called the local station, which apologized for the error and updated its story to indicate that Chanel was a woman, in accordance with journalistic standards endorsed by the Associated Press and GLAAD.
Meanwhile, Chanel is being rememebered fondly by members of Philadelphia's trans community. "She had a heart of gold," Chanel's friend Kione Seymore told the local NBC affiliate. "She hardly ever frowned. She always had a smile on her face. Her laughter was infectious. ... We are trans sisters. We shared a bond no one can understand."
Aileen Brown-Henry, another friend who Chanel had helped out of homelessness, said, "She was my heart and soul. She saved me a lot. She was my only friend."
Chanel's mother, Veronica Allen, who had had a strained relationship with her daughter since Chanel began transitioning, said she and Chanel had recently reconnected. "She was going to go to court and change her name and then she was going to come home," Allen told the station. "That's what we were working towards, but that man took it away from me."
Allen is currently raising funds to pay for flying her daughter's body back to her Texas hometown for burial.
Chanel is being mourned as the eighth trans woman murdered in the U.S. in 2015, in what trans advocates have labeled an "epidemic" of transphobic violence that has taken the lives of Kristina Gomez Reinwald, 46, in Miami; Penny Proud, 21, in New Orleans; Taja DeJesus, 36, in San Francisco;; Yazmin Vash Payne, 33, in Los Angeles; Papi Edwards, 20, of Louisville, Ky.; Ty Underwood, 24, in North Tyler, Texas, and Lamia Beard, 30, in Norfolk, Va.
Bri Golec, 22, of Akron, Ohio, has been identified as a possible other victim, though there exist conflicting reportsfrom friends and family about how Golec identified. By comparison, 12 transgender women were murdered in the U.S. in all of 2014, though this does not account for individuals whose deaths were not reported or investigated, nor for victims who were misgendered or not regarded as trans women in death.
A vigil is being planned at the site of Chanel's death on the 200 block of Ingersoll Street Friday. Police are continuing their investigation.