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Detroit Police Plan LGBT Outreach After Another Trans Murder Victim Is Identified

Ashton O’Hara is the fourteenth trans person, and the twelfth trans person of color, reported killed this year. Activists say an epidemic of fatal violence against trans people is sweeping the country.

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A person whose body was discovered last month in a Detroit field was this week identified as transgender by activists who say there is a growing epidemic of fatal violence against trans people.

Ashton O'Hara was found dead on July 14, according to the Detroit News. The 25-year-old, who activists said identified as gender fluid and still used male pronouns, is the fourteenth trans person to be killed in the United States this year, and the twelfth trans person of color.

According to Equality Michigan, Larry Gaulding was arrested over O'Hara's death. Police records show the 38-year-old has been charged with premeditated first degree murder, as well as violating his parole.

Gaulding has previously served jail time, after being convicted on drug and identify theft charges.

O'Hara's death was followed weeks later in Detroit by that of Amber Monroe, a trans woman who was shot dead in the city on August 8. Police said a 30-year-old trans woman was also wounded in a shooting on Tuesday, the Detroit News reported.

"For the third time in less than seven days, we have had to report on violence against a trans person of color in our community," said Yvonne Siferd, director of victim services for Equality Michigan, in a Facebook statement. "I cannot begin to express the outrage and sadness that we are experiencing."

The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP) said O'Hara was the fifth transgender or gender non-conforming person to be killed since July.

“As we remember Ashton O’Hara and all of the transgender and gender non-conforming we have lost to violence, we demand immediate action on a national level to end this violent epidemic," said Shelby Chestnut, the co-director of community organizing and public advocacy at the New York City Anti-Violence Project.

A June NCAVP report found hate-motivated violence against transgender people rose 13% in 2014. The rise in attacks came despite a 32% overall drop in hate-motivated violence against all LGBT people.

On Wednesday, police and other officials gathered at a Detroit park that has been at the center of some of the LGBT violence, including Monroe's death.

According to MLive.com, Detroit Police Chief James Craig told the crowd that his officers had documented 15 cases of violence against LGBT victims so far in 2015 -- more than double the seven cases reported in all of 2014.

"I know that there are many more than that, because I also know there are many that won't report crimes in the LGBT community," Craig told those gathered at the outreach event. "We want to change that."

"We know that the streets talk, and we're only going to get information if we have relationships," Craig said.

O'Hara's mother, Rebecca, said the police had shown heartfelt consideration when speaking to her about her child's death, making an effort to determine which pronouns he used and how he self-identified.

“They have been so considerate. I was shocked that they actually care about who he was," she said.

David Mack is a reporter and weekend editor for BuzzFeed News in New York.

Contact David Mack at david.mack@buzzfeed.com.

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