Fifty Bandz, a Black trans woman, shot dead in cold blood. She’s the fifth trans American killed in 2021 so far

Fifty Bands take a selfie of herself in a mirror

Fifty Bandz, a 21-year-old Black trans woman, has become the latest victim of a wave of violence against trans people in the US that activists and physicians have dubbed an “epidemic”.

Bandz was shot to death in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, on 28 January by her former partner, Michael Joshua Brooks, 20, according to The Advocate.

Brooks told law enforcement that he pulled the trigger during an argument at the 5000 block of McClelland Drive in the Brookstown neighbourhood.

The pair had been in a one-year-long relationship, Baton Rouge Police Department detectives said, but began seeing one another again only days before the victim’s death. Brooks has since been arrested.

Witnesses described their relationship as “very volatile”. He “was not open or forthcoming” about dating Bandz, which “caused personal problems” for them both.

She is, according to monitoring groups, at least the fifth trans or gender non-conforming person slain in the US this year.

Lacking a centralised database and with both the press and police commonly misgendering and deadnaming victims, records on trans homicides remain spotty, confounding activists.

Both the Human Rights Campaign, a top LGBT+ advocacy group, and the American Medical Association have described the spectre of killings as an “epidemic of violence”, sowing fear and prompting vigilance among trans Americans – and pressure for politicians to take action.

What happened to Fifty Bandz?

Bandz met Brooks in Brookstown to hand him a mobile phone, detectives said. But he became rattled when she made the delivery in from of his girlfriend and brother, witnesses alleged, and then began arguing over the phone.

She borrowed a vehicle and told witnesses she was heading back to grab the phone from Brooks. During the drive there, she dialled a friend and told them what had happened – she then placed the pal on hold, noting Brooks had rung her.

But Bandz never returned the call. She was found dead inside a vehicle at 11pm, suffering from several gunshot wounds that Brooks had fired during a heated exchange, he admitted.

Friends, family and other loved ones released balloons in Bandz’s honour 1 February.

“In just one month, multiple transgender or gender non-conforming people have been killed, four of whom were Black trans women,” Tori Cooper, HRC director of community engagement for the Transgender Justice Initiative, said in a statement.

“This level of violence is infuriating and heartbreaking. This is an epidemic of violence that must be stopped.

“We will continue to affirm that Black Trans Lives Matter and say the names of those we have lost, including Fifty Bandz, but we must do more.

“Fifty was killed by someone she knew – if we can’t trust the people we know, who can we trust? We need everyone to take action to bring this horrific violence to an end.”