Violence Against the Transgender Community in 2018

In 2017, advocates tracked at least 28 deaths of transgender people in the United States due to fatal violence, the most ever recorded. These victims were killed by acquaintances, partners and strangers, some of whom have been arrested and charged, while others have yet to be identified. Some of these cases involve clear anti-transgender bias. In others, the victim’s transgender status may have put them at risk in other ways, such as forcing them into homelessness.

While the details of these cases differ, it is clear that fatal violence disproportionately affects transgender women of color, and that the intersections of racism, sexism, homophobia and transphobia conspire to deprive them of employment, housing, healthcare and other necessities, barriers that make them vulnerable.

Sadly, 2018 has already seen at least eight transgender people fatally shot or killed by other violent means. As HRC continues to work toward justice and equality for transgender people, we mourn those we have lost:

  • Christa Leigh Steele-Knudslien, 42, was found dead in her home on January 5 in North Adams, Massachusetts. Steele-Knudslien organized and produced the Miss Trans New England and other pageants, and was loved and known by many in both the local and national trans community.
  • Viccky Gutierrez, 33, a transgender woman from Honduras was stabbed and had her body set ablaze inside her Los Angeles home on January 10. Friends described her as “a young trans Latina immigrant woman whose warm smile would give anyone comfort.” 
  • Tonya Harvey, 35, was fatally shot on February 6 in Buffalo, New York. A friend of Harvey’s expressed her condolences on Facebook, writing: “I knew her since I started transitioning, she was so sweet and loving.” Police have confirmed they are looking into the incident as a possible hate crime. 
  • Celine Walker, 36, was fatally shot in a hotel room on on February 4 in Jacksonville, Florida. It was not known for several days that Walker was trans because local police claimed to not refer to victims as transgender. Investigators are still looking for a suspect in her death.
  • Phylicia Mitchell, 45, was shot and killed outside her home on February 23 in Cleveland, Ohio. On April 10, Cleveland.com reported that a warrant has been issued for the arrest of Gary Sanders. Sanders was charged with aggravated murder in Mitchell's death. Her longtime partner, Shane Mitchell, described her as "funny and kind" and that "everyone loved her."
  • Zakaria Fry, 28, went missing in New Mexico in mid-January. Her body was later found 40 miles outside of Albuquerque on February 19. Albuquerque Police arrested and charged Charles Spiess with two open counts of murder. Fry's loved ones shared comondolences on Facebook with one friend saying: "You were my older sister. You took care of me and loved me like family. I’ll forever love you. I’m sorry.”
  • Amia Tyrae Berryman, 28, was fatally shot at a local motel on March 26 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Few details are known about the crime, and police report they have no suspects or persons of interest at this time.
  • Sasha Wall, 29, a transgender woman of color, was fatally shot on April 1 in Chesterfield County, South Carolina. Donovan Dunlap, a friend of Wall’s, expressed condolences on Facebook, writing, “I will miss you my beautiful sister. I cannot sleep, I hope they find who did this.”