Keri Washington, 49, of Clearwater, Fla., has become the latest victim of the epidemic of violence against transgender women.
Washington was found dead Saturday morning in back of an apartment building in Clearwater, according to local media, many of which misgendered her and used a different spelling of her first name. The reports did not offer other details about her death.
Police have identified a suspect, Arthur Benjamin Jr., also known as Hadeeka Shabazz, and issued a warrant for his arrest on a charge of first-degree murder. He “has an extensive criminal history and was known to the victim,” says a Facebook post from the Clearwater Police Department. The department asks for anyone who knows his whereabouts to call (727) 562-4242.
Little information has surfaced about Washington’s life, but friends have paid tribute to her on social media. Several have said she went by the nickname “Bobo.” “Rest easy Keri Washington aka Bobo we love U,” read one Facebook post. “Bobo was the real deal slay queen,” said another. On Washington’s own Facebook page, she listed her relationship status as “engaged.”
She is at least the 20th trans, nonbinary, or gender-nonconforming person known to have died by violence in the U.S. this year. Most of them have been Black or Latinx women. The number is on track to exceed last year’s record of 44. The total for any year is likely an undercount, as many victims are misgendered or deadnamed, or their deaths not reported at all.
“Our community is yet again in mourning as a result of senseless acts of violence against transgender and gender nonconforming people,” said a statement from Tori Cooper, the Human Rights Campaign’s director of community engagement for its Transgender Justice Initiative. “Keri was at least the fourth transgender woman killed in less than 10 days, each of them Black or Brown. We urge everyone to end the stigma against transgender people, and to destroy the roots of transphobia and racism that fuel this violence.”
“Such tragic news, again,” the Blue Ridge Pride Center posted on Facebook. “When will the killings end? Now more than ever we must stand together in the face of discrimination and hate and work to educate, advocate and yes, love.”