Community Alarmed by D.C. Shootings
By David A. Fahrenthold and Simone Weichselbaum
Attacks during the past week against men who live as women,
including two shootings Wednesday night and yesterday morning,
have left two dead in the District and alarmed activists of the
D.C. police said the two latest shootings, which occurred five
miles apart, did not appear to be connected. They also said there
was no link to the fatal shooting of a transgender person Saturday,
a case that has resulted in an arrest.
Activists in the transgender community, who have held several
vigils in the past week, said Washington has emerged as one of
the most dangerous places in the country for men who live as women.
There have been five killings since last summer, most unsolved,
"Our lives are being taken by the simple fact that we are
who we are," said Ruby Bracamonte, who spoke at a news conference
called yesterday to discuss the attacks. "My message is this:
We are all human beings. Whatever you do, don't forget that."
Detectives are looking for similarities between the two cases,
including examining ballistics evidence and trying to determine
whether the attacks were connected to nearby "strolls,"
areas where transgender prostitutes work.
The summer also has been marked by a series of gang wars and
an increasing homicide rate in the city. Yesterday, Police Chief
Charles H. Ramsey declared that the city was in a crisis and suspended
rules on officers' schedules and sick leave to give commanders
In the city's transgender community, this month's cycle of vigils
and anguished news conferences began with the one-year anniversary
of the slaying of two transgender teenagers in Southeast Washington.
Deon "Ukea" Davis and Wilbur "Stephanie" Thomas
were each shot more than 10 times as they sat in a car, a double
homicide that remains unsolved.
Then, Saturday morning, Elvys Augusto Perez, a well-known drag
performer who went by the name "Bella Evangelista,"
was shot and killed on Allison Street NW. Police arrested a 22-year-old
man and said he had paid Perez for oral sex and then returned
in anger after he learned that Perez was a man. With the arrest,
police classified the shooting a hate crime.
A 1999 survey found about 4,000 transgender people in the District,
three-fourth of whom were men living as women. Many in that community
feel victimized by hate crimes, said Jessica Xavier, a District
activist who did the study and works as a volunteer coordinator
for the Whitman-Walker Clinic. Xavier said that 26 percent of
transgender people surveyed said they had been intimidated and
that 17 percent said they had been assaulted with a weapon.
"There's a war against transgendered women going on in this
country," Xavier said. "It's a pandemic of violence."
Gwen Smith, a San Francisco activist who runs a Web site, www.rememberingourdead.org,
said at least 283 transgender people have been killed worldwide
since the 1970s. Smith said a disproportionate number of the killings
had occurred in the District.
Last year, Smith said she counted 14 killings in the United States,
including the two teenagers who were shot to death in Southeast
in August. This year, she said, there had been 11 such homicides,
including two in the District: Perez and Kevin "Mimi"
Young, stabbed to death in Northeast Washington in April. With
the shooting death yesterday of Aaryn Marshall, 25, in Southeast,
the District now accounts for one-fourth of the national death
toll this year, according to Smith's data, which are based on
Marshall, who friends said went by the name "Emonie Kiera
Spaulding," was from Springfield, Mass., and Henderson, N.C.,
and had lived in the Washington area for about two years. An uncle,
John Marshall, said that he remembered Marshall as a child who
loved music and sang in the church choir but that they had not
seen each other in two years.
Marshall was identified at the scene by friends, police said.
John Marshall, called to the D.C. medical examiner's office to
make a formal identification, said he was unable to do so from
the photo that he was shown by authorities.
"I couldn't make it work. I looked at the picture for 15
minutes at least," John Marshall said. "And I just couldn't
make it work."
Friends said Marshall was part of a group of gay and transgender
friends who frequented an apartment on Mellon Street SE and a
bar, the Players Lounge, on Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue SE.
Marshall was last seen alive by friends about 1:15 a.m., leaving
the apartment for an all-night convenience store. About 2 a.m.,
police received a report of gunshots in the area of Second Street
and Malcolm X Avenue SE, near a wooded area that residents said
draws drug users and prostitutes.
Officers found Marshall lying nude in a grassy area about seven
feet off the street. Marshall had been shot in the chest and left
arm and had other injuries indicating a fight, police said. Marshall
was declared dead at the scene. Police sources said no clothes
and no shell casings were found near Marshall's body. They speculated
that the victim was driven to the spot in a car and then shot.
Friends said that Marshall was always upfront about being a man
and that they didn't believe that the killer could have been a
sexual partner who felt deceived. They said the killing left them
puzzled and fearful. "People are being plucked off left and
right, just because of their sexuality," said a 20-year-old
who gave the name Diamon Vowels. "Something is up."
Wednesday's shooting occurred about 9:50 p.m. in the 300 block
of I Street NW, in an industrial and mainly deserted wedge of
land between New York and Massachusetts avenues.
Responding to the sound of gunfire, police found a 24-year-old
D.C. resident with a gunshot wound to the torso. The victim was
not fully conscious and said nothing to officers on the scene,
The site is near the center of transgender prostitution in Washington,
Fifth and K streets NW, but police said they were unsure whether
the shooting was connected to the sex trade. Yesterday, the victim,
whose name was not released, was still in critical condition,
a police spokesman said.
Staff writers Petula Dvorak and Jose Antonio Vargas and staff
researcher Bobbye Pratt contributed to this report.
© 2003 The Washington Post Company
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