Zachee Imanitwitaho, a 26-year-old Black transgender woman, was shot and killed just outside her workplace in Louisville, Ky., last Friday.
Zachee had immigrated to the U.S. from Rwanda in 2019 and worked at the JBS meat-processing plant in Louisville. A coworker at the plant, Edilberto Lores-Reyes, 58, has been charged with her murder, local TV station WHAS reports. Police say he turned himself in.
Police have not stated a motive for the crime, but another coworker, who did not give her name, said she believes Zachee was killed because she was trans.
Zachee was well-liked by her colleagues. “She was always happy. Always walking down the hallways smiling,” the anonymous coworker said. “Even when she knew they were talking about her, she didn’t care. She was always happy.”
Another fellow worker and friend, Eric Semuhungu, told the station, “She was a very kind person, always loving people and helping people.” Upon learning she had been killed, he said, “I was like ‘Who does that?’ My mind was blowing up. May she rest in peace.”
Pittsburgh Lesbian Correspondents, which tracks violence against trans Americans, critiqued local officials’ handing of the news.
“In what I can only describe as a vicious decision by the media and the Jefferson County Coroner, an ‘official statement’ was issued Saturday, February 4, clarifying her gender identity — once they took her body to the morgue, they found ‘evidence’ she was allegedly male,” Sue Kerr wrote on the site. “And they released a statement. They didn’t allow for the possibility that she was transgender. They didn’t ask her friends and family. They opted to instead make a spectacle of her gender identity just hours after she endured a violent death.”
Zachee’s family has set up a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for funeral expenses. “We are heartbroken that her conviction to live her life as herself may have led to her death,” the GoFundMe page says. “Zachee was a light to those around her and we are memorializing her so that her light can live on after her death.”
She is at least the fifth trans, nonbinary, or gender-nonconforming person to die by violence in the U.S. this year.