At least nine LGBT people were found murdered in May — three of them on the same day.
The number of trans and non-binary individuals killed this year increased to 28 with the deaths of Keri Washington, Jahaira DeAlto, Whispering Wind Bear Spirit, Sophie Arrieta Vasquez, Thomas Hardin, Danika Henson, Serenity Hollis, Poe Black, and Oliver Taylor.
In 2020, the number was 44, according to the Human Rights Campaign.
The first death was Washington, a 49-year-old Black trans woman, whose body was found in the back of an apartment building in Clearwater May 1. Although there are no reports that reveal the cause of death, police have identified a suspect, Arthur Benjamin Jr., and issued a warrant for his arrest on a charge of first-degree murder, according to The Advocate. The police created a Facebook post with his face and information asking the public for help in locating him.
On her Facebook profile, friends have paid tribute to her:
“Rest easy Keri Washington aka Bobo we love U,” read one Facebook post. “Bobo was the real deal slay queen,” wrote another.
According to Washington’s relationship status, she was engaged.
“Such tragic news, again,” the Blue Ridge Pride Center posted on Facebook. “When will the killings end? Now more than ever we must stand together in the face of discrimination and hate and work to educate, advocate and yes, love.”
Following Washington’s death was the death of Hardin, 35, who was found dead in her York home in South Carolina May 2. Although police did not disclose the cause of death, a neighbor and friend told WBTV that she was shot.
According to friends, Hardin “identified as a woman” but continued to use the name Thomas and used both he and she pronouns.
The police are searching for 26-year-old Tyler Terry, who is accused of several murders and attempted murders that happened during May, including Hardin’s.
According to WisNews, Chimere Hicks, a friend, said Hardin and Terry were at one point romantically involved but their relationship deteriorated.
“He [Terry] would always send him [Hardin] threatening messages, calling him names, just doing a lot of things to him,” Hicks told WisNews. “I just kept telling Thomas it’s not safe. You know you come home at night. But he always said, ‘No I’m not scared of him.’”
Jahaira DeAlto was killed the following day in Boston, Massachusetts. She was fatally stabbed in an apartment on Taft Street in Dorchester along with another individual, Fatima Yasin. Marcus Chavis, 34, has been charged with two counts of murder and was held without bail at his arraignment May 3.
DeAlto was a 42-year-old trans woman who described herself as “a staunch advocate for marginalized communities” and dedicated her life to her work, according to friends and family.
“She wanted nothing more than to advocate for people who were desperate,” Doris Camer, her mother, told The Boston Globe. “She had such a complicated life and she did a lot of good. A lot of good. She suffered a lot because she was transgender.”
Whispering Wind Bear Spirit
Whispering Wind Bear Spirit, a 41-year-old non-binary Indigenous person, was shot to death during an attempted robbery in York, Pennsylvania May 4. While staying in a home with friends, they were shot once in the torso while trying to protect a male resident from being assaulted, according to WPMT. Bear Spirit was taken to a nearby hospital where they died during an operation.
Police said that at least three people were involved in the robbery attempt, according to WPMT. One suspect, Oscar Cook, 19, was charged with burglary, robbery and conspiracy to commit burglary and robbery. Police have not released any information regarding the other two suspects.
“I loved her very much and will be receiving her ashes,” Tammy Johnston posted on Facebook. “I’ve picked out a beautiful Native American urn with a white bear spirit on it. I will be creating a memorial place for her at our cabin, appropriately named the bear house … She will finally have a permanent and peaceful home with us.”
Sophie Arrieta Vasquez
Vasquez, a 36-year-old trans woman, was killed on the same day as Bear Spirit. The homicide almost went unnoticed until community activists planned a vigil to honor her, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
She was found shot to death in her Brookhaven apartment in Atlanta, Georgia. Police have identified a person of interest but have not released the person’s name or a possible motive, AJC reported.
“Stop killing us. We are not hurting anyone,” said Li Ann Sanchez, executive director of Community Estrella, to AJC. “The only thing we are doing is surviving, which is something that society imposed on us.”
Sanchez added that they will not “let her death go in vain or be swept under the rug.”
Angela Arrieta Vasquez, the victim’s sister, told AJC that police have kept her family updated on the homicide investigation.
“We have faith that sooner or later, everything will come to the light,” she said in an email.
Danika “Danny” Henson
Along with Vasquez and Bear Spirit, Henson was also killed May 4. Family and friends gathered for a vigil to remember and honor the 31-year-old trans woman, who was found dead in a home in Baltimore, Maryland. A cause of death was not reported.
At the vigil, loved ones said that Henson did not deserve to die like this.
“I’m still emotional, but I’m trying to hold it together,” Danny’s brother, Michael Henson, told WMar2News.
Michael added that Henson was transitioning to become a woman and believed she got into an altercation with someone they knew and possibly had a relationship with. Michael said he wants justice and the murderer to be held accountable.
“I want to have faith in the system I really do,” he told WMar2News. “I mean otherwise it hasn’t proven to be any good to me.”
No information has been released about a person of interest.
Hollis, a 24-year-old Black trans woman, was found shot to death while walking down the street in Albany, Georgia May 8. The police suspect it may have been a hate crime, according to WALB News 10.
Hollis' family described her as being “well-known in the community,” and couldn't think of any reason as to why someone would kill her.
"That was my child and having to have buried two sons is the most painful thing I've ever had to endure," Hollis’ mother, Robyn Osberry, told WALB News 10, while misgendering her. "And that the person that's responsible has no idea what they took from us, absolutely no idea what he took from us. Joshua was special, he really was."
This isn’t the first time Hollis was attacked. Sara Osberry, her sister, told WXFL that Hollis was stabbed multiple times at the Albany nightclub House of Jazz two and a half years ago.
“The loss of another young person in the LGBTQ+/SGL community is extremely disheartening,” Victoria Kirby York, deputy executive director of the National Black Justice Coalition, said in a press release. “Serenity finally found the world inviting enough to show her authenticity. We stand in solidarity with the Hollis family and other loved ones who appreciated her existence.”
Black, who also went by Oliver Jackson and Legion, was a 21-year-old transgender man who was killed in Niland, California. The time of death remains unconfirmed, but his body was found May 11. According to friends, he was “stabbed seven times, including several times in the genitals and then his body dumped in a nearby canal.”
Black was a resident of Slab City, an unincorporated collection of camps occupied by homeless folks and others who choose to live outside of the conventional community, PGHLesbian reported. Friends said he identified as “mixed Indigenous” and was part of the Wyandotte Nation according to sources. His friends also said that Black was active in Indigenous activism and committed to Native issues.
There have been no arrests or suspects identified as of yet.
Oliver “Ollie” Taylor
Taylor was a 17-year-old trans boy who died May 19 after being kidnapped and shot May 12 in Gervais, Oregon. Police are charging Kenneth Peden III for the kidnapping and murder.
The murder happened when police responded to a disturbance call and found Arik Reed, 22, suffering from a gunshot wound, and was taken to the hospital.
The father of Reed told KPTV his son was trying to stop the alleged kidnapping and got shot in the process. Officers learned that Peden, 20, had kidnapped Taylor after the shooting and left the area in his truck.
After locating the truck, Peden got into a firing match with officers, but was still arrested and taken to jail. Taylor was flown from the scene for treatment of life-threatening injuries, but died regardless, according to Oregon Live.
Background Information on the Violence
Transgender and non-conforming people aren’t only facing violence. The number of anti-LGBT bills that state legislators have introduced — more than 250 — has surpassed 2015, marking it as the worst year for anti-LGBT legislation in recent history. HRC has detailed each of them on its website.