By Tim Fitzsimons
Dana Martin, an Alabama transgender woman, was found dead on Jan. 6 near Montgomery. The 31-year-old Hope Hull resident is the first known transgender person to be killed so far this year.
Martha Earnhardt of the Montgomery Police Department confirmed that Martin was found in the driver’s seat of a car with a gunshot wound and that police are investigating her death as a homicide. No arrests have been made, and police are not releasing further details at this time.
“Our local LGBTQ community is heart-broken and outraged that the first transgender murder has occurred here in Montgomery,” Meta Ellis and Harvey McDaniel of LGBTQ advocacy group Montgomery Pride United said in a statement shared with NBC News. “Dana Martin was a well-loved person in the community and she will be greatly missed.”
The group encouraged people with information about Martin’s death to contact authorities.
Even if a suspect in her death is identified and charged, a murder charge in Alabama can’t be up-charged as a hate crime, because the state’s hate crime law does not include sexual orientation or gender identity as protected classes.
Martin’s murder is the first in what is likely to be a grim toll: The Human Rights Campaign, which has been tracking since 2013 the deaths of trans people in the U.S. due to fatal violence, has reported more than 20 such deaths every year since 2015.
“It is clear that fatal violence disproportionately affects transgender women of color, and that the intersections of racism, sexism, homophobia, biphobia and transphobia conspire to deprive them of necessities to live and thrive,” the organization wrote in a statement released following Martin’s death.
Martin’s death also marks the Montgomery Police Department’s first homicide investigation of the year.
The Human Rights Campaign said they were delayed in identifying Martin, because Alabama officials initially misgendered her in reports of her death.
The latest FBI report found a 17 percent spike in hate crimes in 2017 compared to the previous year. Victims targeted due to their sexual orientation or gender identity comprised 1,470 — or nearly 17 percent of all hate-crime victims.
The Montgomery Police Department is asking individuals with information about the shooting to call CrimeStoppers at 334-215-STOP, Secret Witness at 334-625-4000 or MPD at 334-625-2831.