Angel Unique, a 25-year-old Black transgender woman, was shot to death in Memphis, Tenn., October 25, making her at least the 34th trans or gender-nonconforming person to die by violence in the U.S. this year.
Unique, identified in some reports as Angel Haynes, was found dead at a Motel 6 in Memphis's Whitehaven neighborhood, TV station WTAN reports. She had been shot in the head.
Unique, who was a cosmetologist, lived in Jackson, Tenn., and was in Memphis just for the night, her best friend, Takia Weddle, told the station. "We live in Jackson, but she called me at 10 o'clock and said that she was on her way to Memphis for the night and she was going to call me when she got there, but she never called back," Weddle said.
"I still can't believe it, really, because that was the only person I was with every single day," Weddle continued. "I talked to my best friend more than I talked to my boyfriend."
She said she believes Unique was killed because she was trans. "Just because she was the way she was," Weddle said. Friends and family held a candlelight vigil for her Friday in Jackson. "Everybody that knew Angel knew that she was very funny. Very nice to everybody she met," Weddle noted. A friend has set up a GoFundMe page to raise money for burial expenses.
Police so far have no suspects, but ask that anyone with information call Crimestoppers at (901) 528-CASH.
The 34 reported homicides of trans people in the U.S. this year make 2020 the deadliest year on record. Most of the victims have been Black or Latinx women, and most of the crimes have involved guns. There actually are likely many more such crimes, given that victims are misgendered by police or media, or their deaths not reported at all.
"We have lost yet another Black trans woman to deadly violence in this country," Tori Cooper, director of community engagement for the Human Rights Campaign's Transgender Justice Initiative, said in a press release. "Despite the fact that we are living through the coronavirus pandemic, transgender and gender-nonconforming people are also still facing an epidemic of violence. We are also living in an extremely vitriolic period, where hate, prejudice, racism and transphobia are fueled by many in power. This is contributing to a rise in animosity and an increase in fatal violence against trans and gender-nonconforming people. We need our allies to take action to support us today and every day. As we mourn Angel's loss along with her friends and family, we will continue working for an end to this senseless violence."