COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) “Hate crime” was the first response to the shooting death of a transgender woman by a white man in South Columbia on Sunday, as the local chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union said it was monitoring the situation closely.
The woman, identified by police as Erica P. Williams, 35, was shot in the head and body by an unknown assailant who was identified by friends as a white male.
Police say they are working to identify the shooter.
“As a community we have seen these kinds of incidents over and over again and they are not tolerated,” said Jennifer Smith, executive director of the South Carolina chapter of Human Rights Campaign, which has been monitoring the case.
“We are not taking it lightly and we are not letting this incident define our community.”
Williams, a former medical technician at the University of South Carolina Medical Center, had come out as transgender to her family and friends, but she said they did not feel comfortable sharing their identity with her because of the backlash.
She said she was approached by two men who asked her, “Where’s your penis?”
After the incident, some friends called her the “n-word,” while others were supportive.
“The hateful and vicious rhetoric that was directed at Erica and her family has been directed at many transgender individuals,” said Scott Smith, a member of Williams’ family.
“They have been harassed, attacked and threatened by those who wish to silence transgender people.”
The shooting comes as a wave of violent crimes targeting transgender women has increased in South Dakota, Nebraska and Montana.
Transgender people and allies are especially vulnerable in the South, where transgender people are disproportionately affected by violent crime and discrimination.
In 2016, transgender people in South Korea were beaten, stabbed, raped and burned alive, and in 2015, a transgender student in Ohio was attacked in the school bathroom and was killed.