Transgender woman Taya Ashton was found shot to death Saturday in her apartment in Suitland, Md., a suburb of Washington, D.C., making her the 31st trans, nonbinary, or gender-nonconforming person known to have died by violence in the U.S. this year.
Prince George's County police found Ashton shortly before 10 p.m., the Washington Blade reports. She had suffered a single gunshot wound and was pronounced dead at the scene. She was 20 years old.
"Based on the preliminary investigation, at this time, detectives do not believe this was a random crime," said a statement from the police. There is no evidence yet that the crime was motivated by Ashton's gender identity, "but as in all cases, we explore all possibilities," the statement continued.
Stuart Anderson, Ashton's grandfather, told the Blade there was no sign of forced entry to her apartment, so the attacker may have been someone she knew. It did look like there was a struggle between her and the assailant, he added. He noted that her family members were accepting of her gender identity.
D.C. trans advocate Earline Budd released a statement about Ashton's death, saying, "Today is a somber and sad day for the Transgender Community as we remember yet another life so precious taken away."
She mentioned the fatal shootings of two other trans women in Prince George's County, Ashanti Carmon and Zoe Spears, both in 2019. Gerardo Thomas, 34, of Baltimore, has been charged with first-degree murder in Spears's death and awaits trial, while no arrest has been made in Carmon's death.
"Transgender individuals are experiencing violence locally and around the country almost every day," Budd said in her statement. "D.C. and P.G. County are only separated by a line, and we must come together as one community to address this violence. ... There should be no rest in the LGBTQ community when something as tragic as this happens. Our prayers go out to the family of Taya."
Ashton's family, with Budd's help, is planning a memorial vigil to take place Wednesday at 4 p.m. at River Terrace Park in D.C.
Prince George's County police ask that anyone with information that could help detectives to call (301) 516-2512. Those who wish to remain anonymous may call Crime Solvers at (866) 411-TIPS, or submit information at PGCrimeSolvers.com or through the P3 Tips mobile app. Tips should include a reference to the case number, 21-0032181.
This year is on track to break 2020's record of 44 reported violent deaths of trans Americans. There are likely many more that go unreported or misreported, with the victims deadnamed or misgendered. The majority of victims in both years have been Black or Latinx women.