(CHARLOTTE, N.C.) — Two transgender women were found shot to death in hotel rooms just 11 days apart in Charlotte, North Carolina, prompting police to issue a warning that a suspect, or suspects, may be targeting other members of the LGBTQ community.
The Charlotte-Mecklenburg police said at a press conference on Thursday that it’s unclear if the cases are connected, but both killings are similar.
“Both of those victims … were transgender women, both of them were sex workers, both of them shot to death in hotels,” Charlotte-Mecklenburg police spokesman Rob Tufano said.
On Easter Sunday, police discovered the body of Jaida Peterson, 29, in a hotel room in west Charlotte.
Loved ones said she had been a sex worker for some time.
“You’re so used to hearing about trans violence everywhere else,” Brittany Johnson, who was close to Peterson, told the Charlotte Observer. “But when it happens to your own sister, it brings another type of perspective to you. … That’s the hardest part for me — the person who took her life didn’t understand who she was.”
Her funeral was held in South Carolina on Tuesday. According to the Human Rights Campaign, Peterson is the 14th transgender person killed nationwide in 2021.
The second transgender woman was found shot to death on Thursday at a hotel about 10 miles away from where Peterson was found. Authorities are trying to reach that victim’s family before releasing her name.
Tufano said the police department has been in contact with leadership from the city’s LGBTQ community.
Trans women involved in sex work in the Charlotte area “have to know there has probably been never a more vulnerable time for them,” Tufano said. “They have to be hyper cautious, hyper vigilant.”
Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.