Police investigates murder of Sasha Garden, the 15th trans person killed in the US so far this year

Police in Florida is investigating the death of Sasha Garden, a trans woman of colour whose body was found in an apartment complex in Orlando on July 19.

A post on the Orange County Sheriff’s Office, Facebook page urges anyone with information about the killing of the 27-year-old to come forward, offering a reward of up to $5000. No suspects have been identified so far.

“On July 19, 2018, at 5:02 a.m. deputies responded to 1633 Holden Avenue, in reference to the discovery of person who was deceased from traumatic injuries. Investigation revealed that Sasha Garden was the victim of a homicide. The Orange County Sheriff’s Office is seeking information related to the death of Sasha Garden. Anyone with information is urged to call Crimeline at 800-423-TIPS(8477),” the post read.

Police is looking for information in the murder of Sasha Garden (Orange County Sheriff’s Office, Florida/Facebook)

Garden’s killing is the 15th murder of a trans person recorded so far this year. According to the Human Rights Coalition, which tracks violence against the trans community, 2017 was the deadliest year on record for transgender people in the US, with 28 victims reported.

Garden is also the fourth trans woman of colour to be murdered in Florida, a spate of violence that concerns local LGBT+ activists. The previous three victims were all from Jacksonville and were shot dead—where a fourth black trans woman was shot five times in the beginning of June, but survived, according to LGBT+ organisation Equality Florida.

In a statement this week, Equality Florida director Gina Duncan called on Florida Governor Rick Scott to condemn the killings and call on the authorities to find the perpetrators. “At this point, we’re not even sure Governor Scott can pronounce the word transgender. His lack of leadership and his lack of action is shameful. How many people have to die before this becomes a priority for Governor Scott?” she said.

After the series of killings in Jacksonville, Duncan’s organisation issued a statement last month saying the trans community felt unsafe. “They fear this could be a serial killer or orchestrated violence targeting the community. They do not feel protected on their own streets,” read the statement, which also condemned the Jacksonville’s Sheriff Office for misgendering the victims.

The Orange County Sheriff’s Office was similarly criticised for identifying Garden as a man “wearing a wig and dressed as a female” in their official report, which was promptly circulated to local news stations that repeated the wording in their articles. Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings later issued an apology saying that the officers “did not know the individual was transgender and had only one goal in mind, finding and apprehending a suspect.”

Mulan Montrese Williams, an advocate for transgender women and outreach coordinator for the HIV/AIDS organisation Miracle of Love who helped identify Garden’s body, said she told the officers Sasha’s name and that she was a trans women. “[The deputy] acted like he couldn’t even pronounce transgender,” told Orlando Weekly.

Sasha Garden had wanted to become a stylist. (Sasha TooMuch LetsGetit/Facebook)

A candlelight vigil was held on Sunday to remember Garden. Friends and family described her as a talented stylist who moved from her native Milwaukee, Wisconsin to Orlando, Florida because she liked the palm trees and the heat. They demanded justice for Garden, hoping her murder would not go unresolved as so many other killings of trans women have.

“We’re still in disbelief. I want to know who was angry enough to beat my little cousin to death,” Garden’s cousin Yolanda Davis told Orlando Weekly.

A GoFundMe page set up by Sharon Jones is trying to raise $10,000 funds for Garden’s burial. Jones describes Garden as her “son” in the crowdfunding description but as her “daughter” in her page profile.