Officials in eastern Georgia are searching for a suspect after a Black transgender woman was found shot dead in an Augusta park on Saturday. According to the Human Rights Campaign, 33-year-old Felycya Harris is the 31st transgender or gender non-conforming person to be a victim of fatal violence in 2020, which is now the deadliest year for the trans community since the advocacy group began tracking the killings in 2013.
HRC says transgender people are at heightened risk for fatal violence, especially transgender women of color because of a “a toxic mix of transphobia, racism and misogyny.”
“With news of the death of Felycya Harris, we have hit a grim milestone: We have now matched the highest number of transgender or gender non-conforming people who were victims of fatal violence in one year — and there are three more months left in the year,” HRC President Alphonso David said in a statement. “This epidemic of violence, which is particularly impacting transgender women of color, must and can be stopped.”
According to the Richmond County Sheriff’s office, deputies responded Saturday afternoon to Meadowbrook Park in Augusta on the report of an unresponsive person. They found Harris suffering from a gunshot wound, and she was later pronounced dead. A medical examiner has ruled the death a homicide, reports CBS affiliate WRDW.
So far, no suspects have been identified in Harris’ death and a motive remains unknown. It’s not clear whether she was targeted because of her gender identity, or for some other reason. Though Georgia passed landmark hate crime legislation this year, removing it from a list of four states without the laws that enhance penalties for those who target victims because of protected characteristics such as race or religion, gender identity is not included in Georgia’s new law.
2017 had previously seen the most violent deaths recorded in the transgender community, with 25 people killed. The Human Rights Campaign said it’s possible other deaths have gone unreported. Those that are reported can be difficult to track because law enforcement and the media sometimes misgender and misidentify victims by referring to them with their names given at birth, advocates say.
Harris, a beloved interior decorator and dancer, is being remembered by friends for her upbeat personality.
“That laugh…the smiles. The talks. The arguments. The attitudes. Everybody is going to remember who Felycya Harris is,” friend Ricola Collier told the station.
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