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Shooting death of transgender woman may be a potential hate crime

Shooting death of transgender woman may be a potential hate crime

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The scene of a fatal shooting earlier this month on Shepard Street in Buffalo. (Harold McNeil/Buffalo News)

Police and prosecutors are looking into whether Tuesday's fatal shooting of a transgender woman in Buffalo was a hate crime.

A spokeswoman for the Erie County District Attorney's Office said the office is "extremely concerned about a spike in homicides of transgender people across the country and will be, as part of this investigation, looking into whether or not this is a potential hate crime."

Tonya Harvey, 35, was fatally shot late Tuesday afternoon on Shepard Street.

Harvey, a transgender woman, is Buffalo's first confirmed homicide victim of the year.

Buffalo police initially identified the shooting victim as male. Additional information from Buffalo police reports show the victim identified as female.

Police said the shooting happened shortly before 5:30 p.m. Tuesday on the 100 block of Shepard, a dead-end street off Broadway two blocks west of Bailey Avenue. Police have not released any further information about the homicide.

Harvey, known to friends as "Kita," died at the scene.

Ari Moore, a Buffalo transgender advocate, said transgender women of color can be targeted in hate crimes.

"The hatred, the bigotry and the aggressive attacks on trans people is almost an everyday occurrence in our lives," she said.

Transgender people are frequently shamed and ridiculed when out in public, which can include on public transit or when seeking medical care, she said.

Transgender people face a disproportionate amount of physical and sexual violence, according to the National Center for Transgender Equality, a Washington, D.C.-based social justice advocacy group.

Greater than one in every four transgender people has been the victim of a bias-driven assault, with rates even higher for transgender women and transgender people of color, according to the center.

The Pride Center of Western New York said in a statement it will be working with community partners to help communities grieve and offer support in the wake of Harvey's death.

"There is a very real epidemic of violence targeting the transgender community, particularly those who live at the intersection of transphobia, racism and misogyny," center executive director Damian Mordecai said in a written statement. "The Pride Center remains steadfast in our mission of working with the community to make (Western New York) a safe place for LGBTQ people and to combat trans misogyny."

To Moore, the longtime Buffalonian and advocate for transgender people, this case comes back to the fact that a person was killed.

"The murderer is still out there somewhere," she said.

The Buffalo News: Good Morning, Buffalo

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