London Kiki Chanel, a 21-year-old transgender woman, was stabbed to death in North Philadelphia early Monday, the police department told BuzzFeed News.
Raheam Felton, 31, “confessed to the murder” and is in custody, said Cameron Kline, a spokesperson for the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office. Felton, who allegedly stabbed Chanel multiple times, is charged with possession of an instrument of crime and murder. He is scheduled for a preliminary hearing on June 3 but does not yet have a lawyer, Kline told BuzzFeed News.
Authorities have not released charging documents or many details about the homicide, nor have they alleged a motive for the killing.
Chanel is the eighth transgender woman of color confirmed killed in the United States this year — a trend that anti-violence advocates have called an epidemic. And as in many of the cases, Chanel was misgendered in early reports.
“There has been an immediate outcry from the community who knew her,” said Nellie Fitzpatrick, director of the Mayor’s Office of LGBT Affairs for the City of Philadelphia. “I was receiving reports from the community that the deceased was transgender and needed to be referred to appropriately as a woman with female pronouns.”
NBC10 initially reported, based on interviews with Philadelphia police, that the victim was a “man” stabbed inside a vacant North Philadelphia home.
“Her name was London Chanel,” one of the commenters on the article said. “Please correct the terrible reporting in this article immediately. Black trans women are already at extreme risk of violence, it doesn’t help to hide their murders by using the wrong names and genders in shoddy news coverage.”
Fitzpatrick said NBC10 apologized and updated the article to use female pronouns after she contacted the television station. Police, meanwhile, told her “any information or briefings from police headquarters would reflect the proper gender identity.”
Officer Leeloni Palmiero, a spokesperson for Philadelphia police, said officers in the media division did not know until Monday afternoon that Chanel was a woman. “In the course of the investigation, we were able to determine that was this was a trangender woman,” she said.
Police issued the following statement Tuesday describing their response: “On Monday, May 18, 2015, at 12:49am, 22nd District Officers responded to a radio call of a ‘Person with a Weapon,’ inside 22XX North Ingersoll Street. Upon arrival officers located the victim on the sidewalk outside the location suffering from multiple stab wounds. The victim was transported to Hahnemann Hospital and pronounced at 1:03am.”
“Society is finally beginning to recognize that trans women of color are victimized and murdered at astounding rates,” Fitzpatrick said. “We just have far too many individuals who are dying too young at the hands of violence.”
The seven other confirmed homicides of transgender women of color in the U.S. this year include: A victim using the name Papi Edwards who was shot Jan. 9 in Kentucky; Kristina Gomez Reinwald, who was found in her home Feb. 15 in Miami-Dade County; Penny Proud, who was shot Feb 10. in New Orleans; Taja Gabrielle DeJesus, who was stabbed Feb. 1 in San Francisco; Yazmin Payne, who was stabbed Jan. 21 in Los Angeles; Ty Underwood, who was shot Jan. 24 in Texas; and Lamia Beard, who died of gunshot wounds Jan. 17 in Virginia.
In addition to those killings, some also have questioned the gender identity of someone killed recently in Ohio.
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