Philadelphia police are offering a $20,000 reward for information leading to the capture of those responsible for killing a 22-year-old transgender woman, which has sparked a national outcry.
Police said a group of five or six men attempted to rob and beat Kiesha Jenkins just minutes after she had been let out of a car near North Philadelphia’s Hunting Park neighborhood early Tuesday morning. One of her attackers shot her twice in the back, police said. She was later pronounced dead at Einstein Medical Center.
Transgender advocates say Jenkins is at least the 20th transgender woman killed in the U.S. this year and the 18th transgender woman of color.
Since the shooting, Jenkins’ family has gathered at the Southwest Philadelphia home she shared with her mother and several siblings, including a 6-year-old brother, Robert Moore.
“I like his art and his tattoos,” said Robert of Jenkins, who was a tattoo artist and had some family members as clients. Robert’s favorite design was a tattoo Jenkins did for their mother: the word “Mom” with a heart.
“I want my brother to come back,” he said Wednesday afternoon.
Family members routinely referred to Jenkins using male pronouns and calling her by her birth name.
She described herself as “fabulous” and sometimes “legendary,” said Jenkins’ cousin, Sade Skelton.
Jenkins also did not always dress in women’s clothing as she did at the time she was murdered, which Skelton believes made her more vulnerable.
“[Her] being transgender in that neighborhood, most likely they wouldn’t be OK with it, so I feel [she] was targeted,” said Skelton.
While the Philadelphia Police Department still lists the motive of Jenkins’ attackers as “unknown,” her death has outraged the transgender community just days before the fifth annual Philly Trans* March.
Organizers were already expecting their highest-ever turnout, but this incident could draw an even larger and perhaps more irate crowd. Longtime transgender activist and march co-organizer Deja Lynn Alvarez is concerned that anger over Jenkins’ murder will boil over during what is intended to be a peaceful event.
“The idea behind this march is to bring visibility,” Alvarez said. “If we go out there and start acting outlandishly, we’re not going to get positive recognition.”
Members of Jenkins’ family say they will be among the 1,000 people expected to attend Saturday’s march which starts at 3 p.m. in Thomas Paine Plaza. There will be a moment of silence during the march to remember transgender victims of violence.
Family members have created a GoFundMe page “to ensure the dignity of her burial process.”
Philadelphia police are asking those with information on Jenkins’ murder to call the homicide unit at 215-686-3334 or the anonymous tip line at 215-686-TIPS.
Correction: A previous version of this article misspelled Kiesha Jenkins’ name.