Members of the District’s transgender community fear they are being targeted after two attacks on the same block in two weeks during which transgender women were shot at with no provocation.
“These particular incidents sound like a serial killer, like they are particularly targeting transgender women,” said Jeri Hughes, a D.C. transgender activist.
The shootings, one of them fatal, occurred in a Northeast neighborhood known as a hangout for transgender people. Due to the similarities in the crimes and the suspect descriptions, the cases are being investigated as a “potential emerging pattern,” police said.
Both patrol units and the police department’s Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit will provide extra patrols in the area surrounding the 6200 block of Dix Street Northeast, where the most recent attack occurred Sunday, police said Tuesday.
The incident unfolded at about 2:45 a.m., when a man fired shots at a transgender woman but missed, police said. The man had approached the woman asking for change but pulled out a handgun and fired shots before she could respond.
The slaying two weeks ago of Myles “Lashay” Mclean, 23, played out in much the same manner.
Mclean was out late on July 20 in the 6100 block of Dix Street when two men directly approached her and another person. One of the men started to ask a question and without provocation pulled out a handgun and shot Mclean, police said.
The area where both women were targeted, near the city’s Eastern Avenue border with Prince George’s County, is a regular focus for joint-agency crack downs on prostitution, said Prince George’s police spokesman Cpl. Clinton Copeland.
Despite the area’s reputation, transgender people may go to hang out there for a variety of reasons, including to socialize, said Ruby Corado, a founding member of D.C. Trans Coalition.
“They can’t thrive during the day so they have to go to the times when they feel more comfortable,” she said, adding that the threat of harassment, ridicule or attack may drive transgender people to chose secluded or segregated locations to socialize.
Transgender community leaders say it can be dangerous to be openly trangender anywhere in the District.
“I think transgender people are generally at risk as they go through the city,” said Jason Terry, an organizer with the D.C. Trans Coalition.
Citing a recent survey of transgender people in the District, Mr. Terry said transgender people have huge concerns for their own safety on a regular basis.
Earlier this year, MPD reported that hate crimes relating to sexual orientation or gender identity are up. Crimes related to sexual orientation or gender identity jumped from 35 in 2009 to 45 in 2010, according to the MPDs 2010 annual report on bias-related crimes.
After a hearing early last month, before Mclean’s death, in which leaders of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender groups criticized the police department for the way it handles hate or bias-related crimes, groups say they are still working with MPD to improve community relations.