Murder of LA Transwoman Marks a Dozen This Year

by Winnie McCroy

EDGE Editor

Thursday December 18, 2014

The Los Angeles Police Department are investigating the murder of Deshawnda Sanchez, who was shot and killed in South Los Angeles on December 3. The murder marks a dozen transgender people murdered this year, prompting the National LGBTQ Task Force to action, including a December 5 vigil.

"The National LGBTQ Task Force is outraged by the murder of Deshawnda Sanchez and the ongoing homicides targeting transgender women of color taking place throughout the nation. This year alone, twelve transgender African-American and Latina women have been murdered -- and there seems to be no end in sight to these ongoing tragedies," said Rev. Darlene Nipper, deputy executive director at the National LGBTQ Task Force.

For the third time in six months, a transgender woman of color has been murdered in Southern California. Sanchez, 21, was shot and killed in the Chesterfield Square area of South Los Angeles. She had been pounding on a stranger's door in Compton, desperate for help and pursued by attackers, when she was shot.

A neighbor's surveillance camera showed an individual pulling up to the house, getting out of the car, running up to the porch and then running back to the vehicle and driving away.

"She was definitely at that door, pounding on that door seeking help at the time she was shot," LAPD Detective Christopher Barling told KTLA 5 News.

The LAPD has released few details, but say they cannot rule out the possibility that it was a hate crime. The victim's twin sister said she believed Sanchez was targeted because of her gender identity.

"I think that because they found out that he was a dude, they killed him," said Deshanda Bradley, saying she would never be able to celebrate the birthday they shared. "It's never going to be the same.... My whole heart is missing."

Deshawnda, who friends called "Tata," is the twelfth transgender woman -- and the eleventh transgender woman of color -- murdered in the United States since June. She is also the third transgender woman of color murdered this year in Southern California. Latina transgender immigrant rights activist Zoraida Reyes was killed in June in Anaheim; Aniya Parker was shot and killed in Hollywood in October in the midst of what police are calling a botched robbery.

In Los Angeles, attacks on transgender people rose 46 percent last year and 100 percent of all anti-transgender crimes were violent, according to the 2013 Los Angeles County Hate Crimes Report. When the victim of crime is trans or gender non-conforming, the perpetrator's ignorance, fear and hatred often escalates the violence.

"We are once again reminded by the horrific homicide of Deshawnda Sanchez that members of our transgender community, particularly trans women of color, are being targeted at alarming rates," said Los Angeles LGBT Center Chief of Staff Darrel Cummings. "The murder of Ms. Sanchez is a stark reminder of the very real threats and systemic injustice members of marginalized communities face every day in this country. We must stand together to put a stop to this hatred and violence. Every member of our community matters."

The Los Angeles LGBT Center proactively works with other community organizations and law enforcement agencies on an ongoing basis to raise awareness and implement systematic changes to address the very real threats facing the transgender community and all LGBT people.

Earlier this year, the National LGBTQ Task Force launched #StopTransMurders, a public education campaign to raise the voices of transgender activists and allies working to end anti-transgender violence. On November 18, the organization joined the [email protected] Coalition, Familia: Trans Queer Liberation Movement, Lambda Legal, El/LA Para Trans Latinas, and advocates from across the country in a National Day of Action calling for an end to anti-transgender violence and homicides.

"Our country is faced with a deadly epidemic targeting transgender women of color, black youth, and black men that is fueled by hate and discrimination," said Nipper. "Together as a nation, we have the moral imperative to dismantle racism, transphobia, homophobia and every form of discrimination. No one should ever fear for their life and safety simply because of who they are or who they love. We call on local authorities to use every tool in their power to bring justice to Deshawnda, her loved ones, and the entire transgender community."

Anyone with information about Deshawnda Sanchez's murder is asked to call LAPD detectives at the 77th Street Police Station at 213-485-4175 or report it anonymously online at

Winnie McCroy is the Women on the EDGE Editor, HIV/Health Editor, and Assistant Entertainment Editor for EDGE Media Network, handling all women's news, HIV health stories and theater reviews throughout the U.S. She has contributed to other publications, including The Village Voice, Gay City News, Chelsea Now and The Advocate, and lives in Brooklyn, New York.