Michelle Washington, a transwoman of color, was shot to death in the early hours of Sunday, May 19.
The incident took place on the 3400 block of North 11th Street in North Philadelphia’s Franklinville neighborhood. Police responded to the scene at approximately 5:07 a.m.
Washington, who was in her 30s, suffered gunshot wounds to the head, body and buttock, according to police. She was transported to Temple University Hospital and pronounced dead at 5:33 a.m.
On Monday, May 20 around 9 p.m., the Philadelphia Police Department Homicide Division arrested 28-year-old Troy Bailey, a resident of the 1100 block of West Venango Street, in Center City. Bailey is being charged with murder, possession of a firearm with an altered manufacturer’s number and violations for carrying a firearm as a former convict and without a license, among other crimes.
Washington, Michelle Simone on social media, was known as Tamika, said Deja Lynn Alvarez, Philadelphia City Council at-large candidate. She was a longtime advocate for the city’s transgender community.
Washington was a "no-nonsense" person who "didn't take s--t from anyone," said Alvarez, who knew Washington for more than 20 years. Alvarez added the issue surrounding Simone’s murder affects the trans community more than the LGBTQ community at large.
"It's very important that we stress that because we're not seeing LGB people murdered every other day," Alvarez said. "It's time that we say this is happening to trans women, it's happening to black trans women, it's happening to trans women of color. ...It's time that we shift the focus to that."
In a statement, Amber Hikes, executive director of the Office of LGBT Affairs, said Washington was a “brilliant and outgoing member of Philadelphia’s transgender community” who will be “profoundly missed.”
“The epidemic of violence that continues to plague the transgender community, disproportionately impacting trans women of color, is heartbreaking, frightening, and infuriating,” she added. “The Office of LGBT Affairs will continue combating hate and providing support for the LGBTQ community in Tamika’s memory.”
Mayor Jim Kenney thanked police for quick action on Washington’s case in a May 21 statement and condemned the violence the trans community experiences.
“We must speak up when these acts strike our communities and demand an end to the violence and discrimination our transgender siblings face. …The City of Philadelphia stands with Tamika’s friends and family, and all members of the LGBTQ community, during this difficult time,” Kenney said. “We will continue to ‘say her name’ as we work toward a safer Philadelphia for all our residents.”
Washington studied nursing at the Community College of Philadelphia, according to her Facebook page.
Mikal Woods, a female impersonator at Tabu Lounge & Sports Bar, according to his Facebook page, said he was “devastated,” identifying Washington as his mom in a May 19 Facebook post.
He later took to Facebook live to thank those who reached out with condolences.
Washington’s death is part of a recent national uptick in homicides of people who identify as LGBTQ.
In 2017, the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs determined 27 hate-violence related homicides of transgender and non-conforming people occurred in the United States. Transwomen of color accounted for 22 of these incidents. This represents a 42 percent increase in these crimes from the 19 reported incidents in 2016, according to the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs.
Last Sept. 5, Philadelphia transwoman Shantee Tucker, 30, died of a gunshot wound to the back.
Last weekend, transwoman Muhlaysia Booker, 23, was shot and killed in Dallas, Texas. Booker’s May 18 death occurred weeks after an April 12 incident where several men assaulted her, said Major Vincent Weddington of the Dallas Police Department in a May 19 press conference. The April assault was captured on video and made national headlines.
Detectives believe the shooting stemmed from a robbery and that Washington didn’t know her attacker, Philadelphia Police Department Captain Sekou Kinebrew said in an email.
Washington's gender identity “doesn’t appear” to have motivated the shooting, Kinebrew added via email.
“However, the investigation is still in the early stages, and it would be premature to rule out the possibility of a hate crime,” he wrote.
Last updated May 21 at 4:03 p.m. More to come as story develops.