A transgender woman fatally shot this week in Treme appears to have been the victim of a deadly robbery involving two young men, both of whom remain at large, New Orleans police said Wednesday.
The 21-year-old victim, who had been known as Penny but was identified by the Orleans Parish Coroner’s Office as Perry Thornton, was shot multiple times in the 1100 block of North Claiborne Avenue, near the intersection of Ursulines Avenue. The shooting happened about 1:30 a.m. Tuesday.
“It’s been very painful,” said a family member of the victim who declined to give her name, calling her a “wonderful human being.”
The killing drew widespread attention from local and national advocates for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, and several civil rights groups warned of a troubling spate of violence against transgender people. The organizations referred to the victim as Penny Proud, the name she used on Facebook.
One of the groups, Equality Louisiana, said in a statement that the victim was “the fifth transgender woman of color in the U.S. that we know of whose life was taken from her” in 2015.
“Unfortunately, the killings of transgender women of color are unacceptable, and Penny’s death is one of the many we have already seen this year,” the organization said. “We must put an end to the mistreatment of and lack of respect for transgender people.”
Detective Robert Barrere, the lead investigator on the case, said police don’t believe the victim’s gender factored into the killing “at all.”
“We do believe it was a possible robbery,” Barrere said in an interview. “We believe there were at least two suspects involved in the actual homicide, and we’re pretty confident that they were with a larger group before the murder occurred and that the remaining members of the group may have information about the murder.”
He added, “We’d like them to come forward if possible.”
Barrere described the two assailants as black men in their 20s. One of them is 5-foot-8 and has a medium complexion, he said. The other is believed to be about 5-foot-11 or 6 feet tall with a lighter complexion.
A friend of the victim, Craig Turner, said Penny had become a woman within the past two years. She worked at a fast-food restaurant. He described her as caring and loving. He said he was shocked by the shooting.
“It was hard for me to process,” Turner said. “She was an average transsexual woman coming out. She was a beautiful girl, inside and out.”
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