Alphonza Watson, 38, was shot in the stomach in the early hours of Wednesday morning, WBAL reports, after neighbors in the Baltimore neighborhood of Barclay heard someone yelling for help. A short time later, she was pronounced dead at Johns Hopkins Hospital.
"She was a very caring, passionate, fun person to be around, always in a talkative and playful mood," Walker told the paper.
A local LGBTQ advocacy group posted a message on Facebook honoring Watson and offering space for community members who are grieving or feeling threatened in the wake of the killing:
The Baltimore Police Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment on whether Watson's death is being investigated as a hate crime. But a spokesperson told the Sun that police "don't have a lot to go on."
"What we know is that there was apparently some sort of argument that took place," spokesperson T.J. Smith told the Sun. "That's a vulnerable community that has had some issues in the past."
Witnesses saw two men running out of a building and taking off in a "dark-colored" car around the time of Watson's reported shooting, according to police. No arrests have been made.
Maryland's hate crime laws do specifically cover gender identity, according to the Movement Advancement Project, unlike 29 other states which do not have specific hate crime protections for trans people, and another four states that have no hate crime laws at all.
So far this year, Watson, Chyna Doll Dupree, Jaquarrius Holland, Ciara McElveen, Mesha Caldwell, Jojo Striker, Jamie Lee Wounded Arrow, and Keke Collier have been killed. They were all trans women of color.
The recorded rate of murders of trans women of color has been steadily increasing over the past few years: In 2016, the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs reported 23 trans people killed, a record number, and many of them trans women of color. And the year before, the organization recorded 16 murders of trans people; 13 were trans women of color.