The transgender community in Jacksonville, Florida, believes a serial killer is targeting it.
Three black transgender women have been killed in the city since February, and all three of the murders remain unsolved, leaving the community on edge.
“The transgender community in Jacksonville is frightened,” Gina Duncan, a transgender-rights advocate with Equality Florida, told NBC News. “They fear this could be a serial killer or orchestrated violence targeting the community. They do not feel protected on their own streets.”
The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office says Celine Walker, 36, was found dead in an extended stay room on February 4. Antash’a English, 38, was found between two abandoned houses with a gunshot wound in her abdomen on June 1 and later died at a hospital. The latest victim, 24-year-old Cathalina Christina James, was found dead at a Quality Inn on Sunday, June 24.
The deaths are being investigated separately, and the sheriff’s office said it has no reason to believe the incidents are connected.
Page Mahogany, the leader of the Jacksonville Transgender Awareness Project, said the trans community feels “there’s a target on their backs.” She also said transgender people have no trust in the police department.
“Every day, there are a lot of crimes not being reported, because when the sheriffs come out, the sheriffs make the girls feel like suspects, not victims,” Mahogany said. “A lot of these girls are being beaten up, they’re being robbed, they’re being assaulted, but they’re not reaching out to the police department.”
Duncan expressed a similar sentiment, saying the police have repeatedly used male pronouns to refer to the three deceased women.
“By misgendering these transgender women, the JSO disrespects their memory and impedes their own investigations. These are out, trans women, and that is how they are known in the community," Duncan said in a statement.
A Transgender Lives Matter rally will be held on Wednesday in Jacksonville to commemorate the women and to acknowledge others who have been murdered or assaulted.