Atlanta police investigating 3 'violent crimes' against transgender women

ByMeredith Deliso ABCNews logo
Sunday, April 23, 2023

Atlanta police said they are actively investigating three "violent crimes" against transgender women that occurred this year.

The announcement comes after two Black transgender women were fatally shot a week apart in the city. The investigation into a January shooting that left a transgender woman in critical condition also remains open, police said.

"While these individual incidents are unrelated, we are very aware of the epidemic-level violence black and brown transgender women face in America," the Atlanta Police Department said in a statement Thursday.

The police department said it is exploring the possibility that the shootings were motivated by hate, but that in these cases, "our investigators have not found any indication that the victim was targeted for being transgender or a member of the L.G.B.T.Q. + community."

The department added that they do not appear to be random acts of violence.

The most recent incident occurred Tuesday night. Officers responded to reports of a woman suffering from a gunshot wound at a shopping plaza. The victim was pronounced dead at the scene.

Police have not publicly identified the victim, though a relative confirmed to ABC Atlanta affiliate WSB that it was Rasheeda Williams, 35, an aspiring musician whose music was set to be featured on the Showtime drama "The Chi."

Williams, aka Koko Da Doll, was also featured in "Kokomo City," a documentary about Black transgender sex workers in Georgia and New York that won awards at this year's Sundance Film Festival.

D. Smith, the film's director, said in an Instagram post that "Rasheeda, aka Koko Da Doll, was the latest victim of violence against Black transgender women."

"I wanted to create images that didn't show the trauma or the statistics of murder of Transgender lives. I wanted to create something fresh and inspiring. I did that. We did that! But here we are again," Smith said. "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."

A week before Koko Da Doll's death, another Black transgender woman was killed in Atlanta. Police responded around 4:22 a.m. on April 11 to an apartment complex and found the victim suffering from an apparent gunshot wound. She was pronounced dead at the scene.

"Preliminary information suggests this shooting was the result of a dispute," police said.

Police have not publicly identified the victim in this case, though friends and family identified the victim to WSB as 37-year-old hairstylist Ashley Burton.

"Ashley's family knew her as a confident woman who was comfortable in her own skin and a proud member of the trans community," Tori Cooper, the Human Rights Campaign's director of community engagement for its Transgender Justice Initiative, said in a statement. "Although she is no longer with us, we will never forget the impact Ashley left on her community, friends and family."

The Human Rights Campaign said that Burton's death was at least the ninth "violent killing" of a transgender or gender non-conforming person so far this year -- emphasizing "at least" because "too often these deaths go unreported -- or misreported."

Atlanta police are also investigating a shooting that occurred the night of Jan. 9 at an apartment complex. A transgender woman was transported to the hospital in critical condition.

"Preliminary information indicates a dispute occurred prior to the shooting between the victim and a male suspect," police said.

Anyone with information on these cases is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 404-577-8477 or submit online. A reward of up to $2,000 is being offered for information that leads to an arrest and indictment.

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