Police have charged three men with robbery, first-degree felony murder, and hate crimes in connection with the killing of Deeniquia Dodds, a black transgender woman.
Dodds, 22, was shot around the corner from the house she lived in with her family in Washington, DC, in the early hours of July 4, 2016. After nine days on life support, she died.
A grand jury in DC indicted Jalonte Little, Monte T. Johnson, and Cyheme Hall last week. Police accuse them of committing four other robberies or attempted robberies on the same day Dodds was shot and killed, the Washington Post reports, including an attack on another transgender woman. With the hate crime charges, they could face up to 90 years in prison each if convicted, the paper reports. An attorney for Cyheme Hall told the Post the hate crime charges were "a leap." All three men pleaded not guilty to the charges on Friday, according to CBS News.
Thirty-three states don't have hate crime laws that specify protections for transgender people, making hate crime charges uncommon in murders of trans people, despite increasing evidence from experts and activists that their gender identity makes them far more vulnerable to becoming victims of violence. The District of Columbia has some of the most comprehensive protections for transgender people under state civil rights regulations and hate crime laws.
Local advocates said they hope the hate crime charges help to discourage violence against transgender people. “It sends a message that it’s not OK to go around and shoot, harm and kill transgender people,” Earline Budd, a local trans rights activist, told the Post. “It sends a message that we are human like anyone else.”
The number of reported murders of trans people, and particularly trans women of color, has risen in the past few years. The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs recorded 23 murders of trans people last year. The year before, the group recorded 16 murders. The majority were, like Dodds, trans women of color. And the trend appears to be continuing this year: So far, at least seven trans people have been murdered, most of them black trans women.