Kokomo City star shot dead in Atlanta amid epidemic of violence against Black trans women

Koko Da Doll on the Sundance film festival red carpet

Koko Da Doll, star of award-winning trans Sundance documentary Kokomo City, has reportedly been shot and killed in Atlanta.

According to the Atlanta Police Department, the 35-year-old, who was also known as Rasheeda Williams, was found with a gunshot wound at 11pm local time on Tuesday (18 April), in the southwest area of the Georgia city.

Doll was pronounced dead at the scene, with a homicide investigation ongoing according to the police department.

Kokomo City premiered at Sundance Film Festival in January and swiftly became critically-acclaimed for its funny and unflinching exploration of life for Black, trans sex workers in Atlanta and New York City, including Doll.

Directed by Grammy award-winning music producer D Smith, the documentary was commended for its frank look at the struggles and violence Black trans women face, and for delving into how Black culture and trans liberation intersect. 

Doll was one of four women featured in the documentary giving her account of life for Black trans sex workers, alongside Liyah Mitchell, Daniella Carter and Dominique Silver.

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Following its Sundance premiere, the documentary moved onto Berlin’s International Film Festival, where it once again received rave reviews and secured the festival’s Audience Award.

Kokomo City still. (Sundance Institute/D Smith)
Kokomo City still. (Sundance Institute/D Smith)

Kokomo City’s cast and crew have paid heartfelt tribute in wake of the news about Doll’s death.

Doll’s co-star Carter shared an emotional post on her instagram, writing that she was “ready for [Doll] to return, even if it takes forever”.

“Never thought I’d lose you, but here I am standing alone without you by my side… We’re sisters for life we promised, but now you’re gone I don’t know what to do without you,” she wrote.

“I’m going crazy, I’m trying to hold on to keep strong, but it just doesn’t feel right. I’m waiting here with my arms wide open, tears running down my face, ready for you to return even if it takes forever my sister. I will truly miss you sis.”

In another Instagram post, co-star Silver wrote: “My sister you are gone but you will never be forgotten! I am struggling right now to grasp the fact that we just spoke and now you aren’t here by my side.

“We will get justice for you and please protect Black trans women at all cost!”

Mitchell also used Instagram to say that Doll was “born into a world that didn’t understand” her, using the hashtag #Justice4Koko.

In a statement shared with Variety, director Smith shared that it was “extremely difficult” to process Doll’s passing, considering the nature of the documentary they created together.

“Rasheeda, aka Koko Da Doll, was the latest victim of violence against Black transgender women. I created Kokomo City because I wanted to show the fun, humanised, natural side of Black trans women,” Smith, who is also Black and trans, said in the statement.

At least 32 trans people were murdered in the US in 2022, with the vast majority of those being Black trans women.

Doll is the 13th trans person killed in the US in 2023 alone, according to trans remembrance site Trans Lives Matter.

Trans women murdered in the US this year include Ashley Burton, Destiny Howard, and Unique Banks.

“It’s extremely difficult to process Koko’s passing, but as a team we are more encouraged now than ever to inspire the world with her story,” Smith continued. “To show how beautiful and full of life she was. She will inspire generations to come and will never be forgotten.”

Following Kokomo City’s premiere earlier this year, Doll shared a photo of herself on the Sundance red carpet, alongside the caption: “I will be the reason there’s more opportunities and doors opening for transgender girls,” adding that the film would help to “save a lot of lives”.

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