Trans Woman of Color Killed by Gunshot in LA

Deshawnda Sanchez
Deshawnda Sanchez. Photo via KTLA


Deshawnda “Tata” Sanchez was just 21 years old when she was murdered around 4 AM Wednesday morning (December 3) in Los Angeles. From KTLA:

“She was definitely at that door, pounding on that door seeking help,” LAPD Detective Christopher Barling said.

The occupant of the home came outside after hearing multiple gunshots but it was too late.

A neighbor’s surveillance camera captured part of the incident. Police were not releasing the video, but said it showed someone pulling up to the house in a vehicle, getting out and running up to the porch. The figure could then be seen running back to the vehicle and driving away, police said.

Deshawnda is the 3rd trans woman of color known to be murdered in California in 2014. She is the 11th or 12th trans woman of color to be murdered in the US in 2014. I’m trying to confirm the discrepancy, but – 11, 12 or 13 is 11, 12 or 13 too many.

These past weeks, our nation has been (again) mourning the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner at the hands of law enforcement officers and the failure of the grand jury system to afford justice to the community. There is an epidemic of violence against people of color in our society – and we as allies must acknowledge that trans women of color are a unique part of that epidemic.

Our sisters are being slaughtered and their trans identity is an important part of that systematic butchery. I’m glad to read that the LA police are factoring her identity into their investigation. I’m glad that the preliminary media coverage has been fair and accurate in terms of her identity. I’m glad that the homeowner responded to her because I hope that comforts her loved ones and reflects on the decency & compassion in people.

But I also am very angry and frightened by the manner in which racial injustice and transphobic attitudes intersect in our society. The murders of these women – all of them – cannot be reduced to internalized transphobia among people of color, as some are wont to suggest. The epidemic of violence against all people of color and women in particular requires us to examine that assumption more closely. Tackling racism and racial justice in the LGBTQ community is a daunting task. Here in Pittsburgh, we have a tendency to ignore things in hopes that they will stop being problems. There have not been any reported murders of trans women of color here so it probably isn’t an issue for us, right? Never mind that dozens of young trans women of color survive by working on The Stroll on Liberty Avenue because they have nowhere to go. Never mind that only one shelter for women accepts trans women. Never mind that the murders of Susan Sidney (age 25), Tina Crawford (34) and Teaira Whitehead (16) are unsolved and their lives not generating the outpouring of support that the families of white women of similar ages receive. No benefit concerts, no auctions, no crowdfunding. Susan, Tina and Teaira were cisgender women of color. All three have been linked tentatively to drugs or gangs which seems to negate their humanity and possibly implicate them in their own murders. Do you honestly think the same would not happen to a transwoman of color in Pittsburgh if she were murdered and perhaps had a tie to The Stroll or some other element that #NextPittsburgh rejects as unseemly?

Rest in peace, rise in power Deshawnda Sanchez. You fought to live and we will honor your spirit of survival by continuing to push back against this epidemic.

A light-colored compact car was seen fleeing the scene. Anyone with information is asked to call the LAPD’s Criminal Gang Homicide Division at (213) 485-4341.

Friends and neighbors in LA will hold a vigil for Deshawnda Friday, December 5 at 6 PM local time.




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