A 27-year-old black transgender woman was shot and killed in a Washington, DC, suburb during the early morning hours of March 30, the eve of International Transgender Day of Visibility.
Ashanti Carmon, who lived in nearby Alexandria, Virginia, and was known in DC social circles, was found dead with multiple gunshot wounds in the 5000 block of Jost Street in Fairmount Heights, Maryland, at around 6:30 a.m. on that Saturday morning, according to the Prince George’s County Police Department. The shooting occurred one block away from the border between Maryland and DC.
Homicide detectives are investigating the murder, but a police department spokesperson told Gay City News on April 2 that there are no updates in the case.
Transgender activist Earline Budd, who works as a case manager at a DC-based harm reduction agency known as Helping Individual Prostitutes Survive (HIPS), told Gay City News that she talked to Carmon just days before her death. Carmon, who would often stop by Budd’s office at HIPS — not as a client, but to socialize — had recently been searching for a part-time job.
“She was a quiet woman and didn’t seem to ask for much,” Budd recalled. “I feel bad because with someone like Ashanti. I called her one of my kids.”
Though Budd confirmed some press reports that the area where Carmon’s body was found is a common place for sex workers to meet clients, she warned against drawing any conclusions about the circumstances surrounding Carmon’s death because the location is also a spot where transgender women generally gather to socialize.
“Because we don’t have a place to congregate, we hang out in the streets,” Budd said. “Mainly in those corridors, where yes, there is prostitution, but that’s not always the case.”
Transgender people have been victims of violence in the same area in the past. The shooting took place just steps away Eastern Avenue NE, which is where another transgender woman, 23-year-old Lashai Mcclean, was murdered in July of 2011.
Police said citizens called 911 after hearing gunshots, but there is no information about any eyewitnesses. Budd is still wondering how Carmon could have been alone at the time of the shooting.
“Apparently there were other girls out there that morning,” Budd said. “How did she get to be by herself and gunned down like that?”
Budd also mentioned that Carmon’s fiancé, Philip Williams, had gone out to dinner with Carmon the previous night before he left for work.
“They had an apartment and everything,” Budd said while noting the couple had been planning to get married soon. “It’s just so sad.”
Williams declined comment when reached by phone on April 2.
Capital Pride, Whitman-Walker Health, The DC Center, and the Human Rights Campaign’s DC Steering Committee organized a vigil for Carmon for 6:30 p.m. on April 2, according to a Facebook event page.