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A transgender woman was shot to death in a vacant apartment building in Washington, D.C., Sunday, possibly in an exchange of gunfire with a security guard -- but trans advocates are skeptical of some police statements about the case.
The woman, whose name has not been released, was found dead in the building Monday, the Washington Blade reports. The day before, a private security guard there had exchanged shots with another person, and police believe the guard fired the fatal shot.
"The suspect fled, and it was initially believed that the suspect had fled the vacant building," D.C. Police Chief Peter Newsham said at a Tuesday news conference, according to the Blade. But Monday, the security company reported there was an unconscious person at the site. Police responded, found the person was dead, and discovered a handgun near the body. They eventually determined she was a transgender woman. Police are not releasing her name until after her family is notified.
Trans activist Earline Budd of the sex worker support group HIPS expressed skepticism that the dead woman was the same person who fired shots at the guard. There is a "good possibility" that someone else shot at the guard, Budd told the Blade. She said sex workers sometimes meet clients at the building, and the woman could have been shot by someone seeking to engage in sex with her.
Newsham said police simply have a "theory" that the deceased woman had shot at the guard. "That is what we believe at this time through the investigation, yes," he said at the news conference. "We haven't determined that conclusively, but the facts and circumstances and the evidence we've recovered suggests that that's the case. ... That's the theory we are working with right now, yes."
Police spokeswoman Karimah Bilal declined to say how many bullets were found in the woman's body or whether they matched the ammunition in the guard's gun, the Blade reports. The investigation remains open, she told the paper Thursday.
At least four other trans women are known to have died in D.C. in December, Budd told the Blade, with the other deaths attributed to natural causes or a possible drug overdose. If the latest death is determined to be a homicide rather than an accident or the result of self-defense, The Advocate will add this woman to its list of 2019's transgender homicide victims.
Constant reports of violence against our community are difficult to read, especially as we continue to face historic rates. If you or someone you know is experiencing violence, you can reach out to the Anti-Violence Project's free bilingual (English/Spanish) national hotline at (212) 714-1141 or report online for support.