A transgender woman was shot to death Tuesday in Buffalo, N.Y., in the third known homicide of a trans person in the U.S. this year.
Tonya Harvey, 35, was shot on a dead-end street about 5 p.m. Tuesday and died at the scene, The Buffalo News reports. She is Buffalo’s first confirmed homicide victim of 2018, and police and prosecutors are investigating whether her death was a hate crime.
Officials in the Erie County District Attorney’s office are “extremely concerned about a spike in homicides of transgender people across the country and will be, as part of this investigation, looking into whether or not this is a potential hate crime,” a spokeswoman told the News. Buffalo police spokesman Michael J. DeGeorge told Mic that detectives have “some possible early leads” in their search for her killer.
Initial police and media reports misgendered Harvey, something that outraged her friends and LGBT activists. Social media posts described Harvey, who sometimes went by the nickname “Kita,” as “sweet and loving” and “the black Cameron Diaz.”
Activists also pointed out the disproportionate violence against transgender people, especially trans women of color. “The hatred, the bigotry, and the aggressive attacks on trans people is almost an everyday occurrence in our lives,” Buffalo activist Ari Moore told the News.
“There is a very real epidemic of violence targeting the transgender community, particularly those who live at the intersection of transphobia, racism, and misogyny,” Damian Mordecai, executive director of the Pride Center of Western New York, said in a written statement to the paper. “The Pride Center remains steadfast in our mission of working with the community to make [western New York] a safe place for LGBTQ people and to combat trans misogyny.”
There were 27 reported homicides of transgender people in the U.S. in 2017, matching 2016’s record total. The actual number for any given year is likely higher, as some victims may have been misgendered by police or media, or their deaths not reported at all.