After responding to a 911 call from a Motel 6 in Memphis, Tennessee on October 25, police reportedly found the body of Angel Haynes, a 25-year-old Black trans woman. She had allegedly been shot in the head and was pronounced dead at the scene, according to the ABC news affiliate WATN-TV.
Her death marks the 34th transgender homicide of 2020, according to tracking from the Human Rights Campaign. Haynes, who worked as a cosmetologist, had just undergone gender confirmation surgery and had not yet fully healed, according to her best friend, Takia Weddle. At a vigil held over the weekend, Weddle told WATN-TV that she talked to Haynes “more than I talked to my boyfriend.”
“I still can’t believe it really because that was the only person I was with every single day,” Weddle said.
On Saturday night, Haynes told Weddle she was traveling back to Jackson, where the two lived. Instead, she texted at 10 p.m. to say she was going to Whitehaven, a predominantly Black neighborhood of southern Memphis located along the Mississippi border. Weddle noted that the area is more culturally conservative, saying that residents “don’t like people like that over there really,” referring to transgender people.
The call never came. By 2:19 the next morning, Haynes was found dead by Memphis Police.
Haynes’ death is one of four trans homicides in the past month. These included Sara Blackwood, a 39-year-old Indianapolis native, who was gunned down while walking home on National Coming Out Day, and 33-year-old interior decorator Felycya Harris, who was shot to death in Georgia.
Even before the recent spate of murders, 2020 was already the deadliest year on record for trans and non-conforming folks. The previous high was 2017, when 29 transgender people were killed during Trump’s first year in office.
However, there are a number of ancillary factors at play. Homicide rates are up in cities across the country this year, and according to a recent report from the Council on Criminal Justice, homicide rates over the summer rose 53% compared to the summer of 2019. The spate of anti-Black hate crimes has likewise revved up in the wake of George Floyd’s killing at the hands of Minneapolis police officers on May 25.
In a Wednesday tweet, the Transgender Law Center noted that Haynes’ murder was followed by another anti-Black killing: 27-year-old Walter Wallace Jr., who was shot by police in West Philadelphia on Monday.
While the Memphis crime rate is likewise at an all-time high in 2020, the city has a history of transphobic violence. In 2014, Alejandra Leos was killed in front of her North Memphis home. Last May, a Memphis man shot a Black trans woman (whose name was not reported by the media) at a Waffle House in the border town of Southaven, Mississippi, where law enforcement isn’t required to report hate crimes to the FBI.
Friends of Haynes held a candlelight vigil on Friday to honor her life. Weddle posted videos to Facebook of friends and family members lighting candles in Angel’s name. They also released balloons while chanting “long live Angel.”
Haynes’ community members have also set up a GoFundMe to help ease the burden of end-of-life costs for her family.
Get the best of what’s queer. Sign up for our weekly newsletter here.