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A 20-year-old transgender woman was shot and killed inside her apartment in Suitland, Maryland, on the evening of Saturday, July 18.
Prince George’s County Police responded to a report of a shooting in the 2300 block of Brooks Drive, near the Sussex Square Apartment complex, around 9:55 p.m. They arrived to find Taya Ashton suffering from a gunshot wound in her apartment. She was pronounced dead at the scene.
According to a press release from the Prince George’s County Police Department, detectives are working to identify suspects and determine a motive for the crime. Based on the preliminary investigation, they do not believe the crime was random, but have also uncovered no evidence suggesting that Ashton was killed due to her gender identity.
The investigation into her death remains ongoing.
Anyone with information about the case is asked to call the department at 301-516-2512. Those who wish to remain anonymous may call Crime Solvers at 1-866-411-TIPS, submit an online tip via www.pgcrimesolvers.com, or through the “P3 Tips” mobile app. Tipsters are asked to refer to the case using the case number 21-0032181.
“Today is a somber and sad day for the transgender community as we remember yet another life so precious taken away,” transgender advocate Earline Budd wrote in a statement sent via email to community members and media outlets. “This murder only remind us of the tragic shooting in 2019 of both Ashanti Carmon and Zoe Spears. Both were brutally gunned down between March 30th and June 19th of 2019 less than a mile from each other.”
Both women were killed in Fairmount Heights, Maryland, just over the border from D.C.’s Burrville neighborhood, in an area frequented by members of the transgender community. A Baltimore man, 34-year-old Gerardo Thomas, was arrested in July 2019 and charged with first-degree murder in Spears’ death, and is currently awaiting trial. No arrests have been made in Carmon’s death.
Transgender advocate and activist Hope Giselle told WUSA9 that transgender individuals are aware of the heightened risk of violence they may face due to their gender identity.
“It’s something that we all, especially as Black and Brown trans women, with a focus on Black trans women, who live in Black neighborhoods, know that it’s a possibility. It could be you today, me tomorrow, and one of our good girlfriends the week after that,” Giselle said.
Budd said that a candlelight vigil in Ashton’s honor will be held on Wednesday, July 21, at River Terrace Park, located near the intersection of Benning Road NE and Anacostia Avenue NE. Setup for the event will start around 4 p.m., with the vigil kicking off at 6 p.m.
Ashton is the 31st transgender, nonbinary or gender-nonconforming person to be killed violently in 2021. Of those, 29 are people of color, and 22 identified as Black. Advocates note that the actual number of victims may be even higher, as transgender people’s deaths may go unreported, or they may be misgendered by police or media, thus making it difficult to compile statistics on transgender victims.
“We speak out today and condemn this killing of another member of our community,” Budd said of Ashton’s death. “There should be no rest in the LGBTQ community when something as tragic as this happens. Our prayers go out to the family of Taya’s. Transgender individuals are experiencing violence locally and around the country almost every day. DC and PG County are only separated by a line, and we must come together as one community to address this violence.”
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