The Human Rights Campaign reported Tuesday that Michelle "Tamika" Washington is the third black trans woman killed over the course of the last week, following the deaths of Muhlaysia Booker and Claire Legato in Texas and Ohio, respectively. Police have arrested a suspect, according to ABC News, but are not currently treating Washington's killing as a hate crime.
"Tamika was a brilliant and outgoing member of Philadelphia’s transgender community, known for her advocacy and mentorship, and she will be profoundly missed," Amber Hikes, Executive Director of Philadelphia’s Office of LGBT Affairs, said in a statement. 'The epidemic of violence that continues to plague the transgender community—disproportionately impacting trans women of color— is heartbreaking, frightening, and infuriating."
Washington was fatally shot in Philadelphia on Sunday, police said. The next day, they arrested Troy Bailey, and he was later arraigned on murder charges, Philly.com reports. In a statement to police, the suspect alleged that he shot Washington over a dispute surrounding a gun sale between the two of them, although Philadelphia police homicide Capt. Jason Smith said at a press conference that police "don't necessarily believe that's the case," according to ABC News.
Still, in a Facebook note, Hikes said that "police have no evidence that Tamika was targeted because of her gender identity," and urged anybody with information about her killing to come forward and share it.
Trans people, and black trans women in particular, face disproportionately high levels of violence in the US and abroad. According to a joint study by the Human Rights Campaign and the Trans People Of Color Coalition, trans women are more than four times more likely than cis women to be murdered in the US, and of the 102 trans people who were killed in the US between 2013 and 2017, 85% were people of color. In every year since at least 2015, the majority of trans murder victims were black women.
Washington was the fifth trans person killed in America in 2019, the Human Rights Campaign reports, and one of two killed just over the weekend. All of the victims were black, according to the Human Rights Campaign.
"The Mayor’s Commission on LGBT Affairs offers our solidarity, our commitment to #SayHerName, and a commitment to ending the plague of anti-black, anti-trans, and queerphobic violence that plagues not just our nation, but our own local community," Raquel Evita Saraswati, Chair of the Mayor’s Commission on LGBT Affairs, said in a press release. The website for #SayHerName states it's a movement that "calls attention to police violence against Black women, girls and femmes, and demands that their stories be integrated into calls for justice, policy responses to police violence, and media representations of police brutality."
Sarasawati ended her statement by reaffirming that Washington will always be remembered. She explained, "Our community is nothing without black trans women, and we will mourn the loss of Michelle ‘Tamika’ Washington today and in the years to come."