The body of 34-year-old Ashia Davis was found in the early hours of June 2 at the Woodward Inn in Highland Park, marking a tragic start to Pride Month in Metro Detroit.
While the medical examiner has yet to give an official cause of death, witnesses on the scene, including victim advocate for the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office Julisa Abad, say Davis, a trans woman known to friends as Charm, appeared to have died of a gunshot wound. At the request of the Highland Park Police, the case has been taken over by the Michigan State Police’s (MSP) Special Investigation Section. The MSP are investigating the death as a homicide and have released video of a suspect approaching and fleeing the scene.
“Another trans woman of color and member of our community was taken through violence,” Abad told Pride Source. “Ashia Davis was loved by so many people in the community. Though every death has impacted me, this one has hit really close to home.”
First Lt. Mike Shaw of the Michigan State Police told Fox 2 News it would take an autopsy to determine the official cause of death. He also said he was unsure of motive at this point and whether the murder had anything to do with Davis being transgender.
"Was there any type of sexual assault? Things like that is where we are at right now," he said.
Homicide Investigation: 6/2 at 1:30 AM Location: 16375 Woodward Synopsis: The Special Investigation Section was contacted by Highland Park police to investigate a homicide that occurred in their city. 1/ pic.twitter.com/MNBIP3zXbk— MSP Second District (@mspmetrodet) June 2, 2023
Abad reflected on the way violence against trans women is often portrayed. “I’ve seen so many disparaging comments after trans women unfortunately die, and the big misconception is that trans women are out here tricking people," she added. "Whether people understand or not, or have their own biases, the reality is that straight cisgender men are killing transgender women because of their own self-hate and because of how the community treats us and continues to perpetuate the stigma.”
Lilianna Angel Reyes, executive director of the Trans Sistas of Color Project (TSOCP), said her community is “mourning a beautiful woman and a loving sister. Ashia, Charm, her loss was tragic and ridiculous.”
Reyes went on to say that the community needs to uplift Davis’s friends and family during this time. “Also,” she said, “we need to advocate for Black and brown trans women and allow us to grow and thrive without violence.”
Though it’s early in the investigation, Abad said that “though I can’t talk about the case, I am confident that we will find justice for Ashia.” Currently, the MSP are asking people to look at the video they released in hopes that some can help identify the suspect. In the video, the suspect is wearing a blue hooded sweatshirt or jacket, black Adidas jogging pants with a white stripe on the legs and an Adidas emblem on front with black Nike shoes.
“While the video is from a distance and the photo is blurry, we are hopeful that someone will recognize this person,” Shaw said in a tweet.
Police were first called to the Woodward Inn when someone noticed an open door to one of the motel rooms. The fact that Davis’ body was discovered inside at the start of Pride Month makes the tragedy particularly painful, said Jey’nce Poindexter Mizrahi, vice president of the TSOCP. “I’m at a pause. It’s so unnerving. Gun violence continues to shake, rattle and roll us, yet no national gun control. They’re too busy trying to ban drag and fear mongering. It’s extremely telling in the worst way. We will fight on, though.”
At the beginning of the investigation, Davis’s beloved Yorkie, Clyde, was missing. But now Abad said she is “happy to report that Clyde has been located and is reunited with family.”A memorial benefit show for Davis will take place Wednesday, June 7 at the White Star Night Club in Hamtramck, located at 9819 Conant St. Anyone with information about the case is encouraged to call the Michigan State Police at 1-855-MICH-TIP, Crime Stoppers at 1-800-SPEAK-UP or the Fair Michigan Justice Project. A fundraiser to help with Ashia's funeral expenses has been set up at bit.ly/3OWkkm0 .