A transgender person was shot and killed in DC early Wednesday morning.
According to Fox News, 23-year old Lashai Mclean, was gunned down in the early morning hours. Mclean was on Dix Street with another transgender person at around 4:30 a.m. Wednesday morning when police say words were exchanged with two men. A pistol was pulled, shots were fired and Mclean was hit in the back.
Police are looking into the possibility that she was the victim of a hate crime.
The Washington Times reported that the shooting occurred about 10 blocks from a group home for homeless gay and transgender youth where Mclean was seeking housing. The article also noted that DC crimes related to sexual orientation or gender identity jumped from 35 in 2009 to 45 in 2010, according to the 2010 annual report on bias-related crimes.
Earline Budd, a well-known trans advocate who runs the Transgender Health Empowerment agency, is quoted in the Fox article as saying "transgender women are always at risk."
"It's been time and time again we've been getting calls here at Transgender Health Empowerment about stabbings. They've been shot and they've been beat up and I can just say that I can't say Shai was involved in any illegal activities in terms of being there, but I can tell you clearly that area has a lot of violence and we work very closely to educate young ladies."
The Fox article notes that DC Police say they have been struggling to control transgender prostitution in the neighborhood, but there is no indication that Mclean was involved, and a number of friends and relatives quoted in the article said she was a valued member of the community. It's unfortunate that Ms. Mclean's murder is being sullied by accusations of this nature.
The Washington Times said that, according to D.C. court records, Miss Mclean has been in and out of jail several times for minor offenses in the last several years. She was most recently arrested for sexual solicitation, a charge that was dropped after she completed a diversion program. It should be noted that trans women are often targeted by police as potential prostitutes despite a lack of evidence. In the absence of more information on the sexual solicitation charge, it is difficult to discuss the merits of the charge.
DC Mayor Vincent Gray expressed concern over the murder and said that hate crimes will not be tolerated.
DC List notes that the D.C. Council recently held a hearing to discuss the city's police response to hate crimes, during which Chief Cathy Lanier defended the department's Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit, which police union chief Kristopher Baumann and others argued had been weakened during Lanier's tenure.
This most recent incident must be seen in the context of the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Project's report, which shows that people of color and trans people are disproportionately represented among murder victims and survivors of other anti-LGBT violence.