Police are searching for the person who fatally shot a transgender woman at a homeless encampment in Dallas Saturday night.
Dallas police said the incident happened at about 10:08 p.m. in the 500 block of Park Avenue, between Marilla and Young streets.
The victim, who police identified as a transgender woman, died at a local hospital.
The Dallas County medical examiner's office identified the victim through fingerprint analysis. The victim was not carrying official identification.
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The Dallas County Medical Examiner’s Office identified the 44-year-old victim and notified the family.
NBC 5 is not identifying the victim by their 'birth name."
Police said the motive and circumstances around the case were unclear.
A silver car was seen leaving the location westbound on Marilla Street after the shooting, but police did not provide a description of the suspected shooter.
“It’s a horrible tragedy when any of our homeless friends die,” Pastor Wayne Walker of Our Calling said. “It’s, unfortunately, a reality of the abuse that happens on the streets. Our most vulnerable population really attracts the worst kinds of predators.”
Our Calling provides resources for the area's homeless population and a safe place for individuals to go during the day.
Our Calling reports an increase in the city’s homeless population amid the pandemic.
“In January through April of this year, we saw more new people than we did in all of 2020 combined,” Walker said.
Walker said they are not sure if the victim in Saturday’s murder sought help and resources from their organization, which is located about a mile from the encampment.
They work with 10,000 people a year, many of who experience violence on the streets.
“A significant amount of the violence that we see are individuals not experiencing homelessness committing crimes against those who are experiencing homelessness," Walker said. "So, in this crime, we don’t know the details. All we know is that the perpetrator left in a car.”
Advocates for members of the LGBTQ community are also speaking out, demanding justice for the victim.
“This I believe makes the 34th [murder] I’m aware of this year in the United States,” said Leslie McMurray of the Resource Center. “Last year was 44, so we’re on track to exceed that. Last year was a record, so it keeps getting worse, not better.”
While a motive is not yet known, Dallas police said they were investigating the murder as "a hate crime" until evidence rules it out.
However, the state’s hate crime law doesn’t specify protections for individuals based on "gender identity."
“If [Dallas police] were to appeal to the Justice Department and/or the FBI and go through that process to get it declared a hate crime, then it could be possible. But that’s never happened in the past,” McMurray said. “I would like for transgender people to be protected under hate crime legislation and God knows we’ve tried.”
Both advocacy groups said they have reached out to police to provide any information or help to address the murder.
“I don’t want them to just be a number,” McMurray said. “We need to have a name associated with them and to remember their memory because their life was precious, just like anyone else.”
Anyone with information may contact Det. Frank Serra at 214-671-4320 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Crime Stoppers is offering up to $5,000 for information that leads to an arrest and indictment. Tips may be made by calling Crime Stoppers at 214-373-8477.