Police in Fairmount Heights, Md., a small town in Prince George’s County just across the border from D.C., are appealing to the public for information about the murder of a 27-year-old transgender woman who was found shot to death on a street about 6:30 a.m. on Saturday, March 30.
Neither Fairmount Heights police nor P.G. County police, who have taken over the investigation of the murder, had released the woman’s name or identified a possible motive for the killing as of Sunday night. But friends who knew her informed D.C. transgender activist Earline Budd that the woman’s name is Ashanti Carmon, a D.C. resident.
Budd told the Washington Blade she was shocked upon learning the woman’s identity because Budd has known her from Carmon’s visits to the D.C. LGBT supportive social services group HIPS, which provides a drop-in center for the transgender community.
Budd said the friends put her in touch with Carmon’s fiancé and boyfriend of six years, Philip Williams, who in turn helped police locate Carmon’s family members.
“We’re hopeful that someone who saw something, however insignificant, contacts the police,” Fairmount Heights police said in a posting on their Facebook page on Saturday afternoon.
Police said they responded to calls from nearby residents who heard multiple gunshots near the intersection of Aspen and Jost streets around 6:23 a.m. on Saturday. The intersection is in a residential area about one block from Eastern Avenue, which serves as the border between D.C. and P.G. County.
Police said the then unidentified victim was pronounced dead on the scene.
The area where Carmon was found is known as a place where both transgender and cisgender female sex workers congregate. But Budd told the Blade that Carmon’s friends told her Carmon was not a part of that scene and wasn’t known for hanging out in that area.
“That was the information I got from all her friends,” said Budd. “The message was this is so shocking to everybody,” she said. “They said no, Ashanti is not that type of girl – hanging out on the streets on the stroll and all that,” Budd told the Blade.
“I don’t know what it was that prompted or drove her to be up there at that particular time yesterday morning,” Budd said in a Sunday night phone interview.
According to Budd, Carmon was an occasional visitor at the HIPS drop-in center, which is located on the 900 block of H St., N.E. Budd is a member of the HIPS staff and provides services for trans clients.
“She didn’t hang out as a regular,” said Budd. “But when she came she was always so delightful. She would hang out at the drop-in center with the rest of the girls and the guys. And I just used to tell her how beautiful she was and hoped that she was pulling it together.”
Carmon’s boyfriend, Philip Williams, told Fox 5 News and Channel 4 news in on camera interviews that the two had been a couple for six years and were engaged to be married.
“I mean six years with her, that’s the most brilliant thing I’ve ever done in my life other than being born,” Williams told Fox 5. “Everything just went on pause for me,” he said upon learning of her death. “I just couldn’t bear to be a witness to her going like this,” he said. “She’s too young. She’s not violent. She’s always a sweetheart, giving.”
P.G. County police said they would release more information about the murder on Monday.
Carmon’s death is the first known murder of a transgender person in the D.C. metro area since July 2016, when D.C. transgender woman Deeniquia “Dee Dee” Dodds, 25, was shot to death on a street in Northeast D.C. D.C. police arrested four men on multiple robbery and assault related charges, including first-degree murder while armed, in connection with Dodds’ death.
Two of the men pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and agreed to testify as government witnesses at the trial of the other two men, which took place in February of this year. A D.C. Superior Court judge declared a mistrial on the murder charges after the jury became deadlocked and declared it could not reach a verdict. Prosecutors with the U.S. Attorney’s Office said they plan to bring the two men to trial again on the murder charge.
Carmon’s murder also took place on the eve of International Transgender Visibility Week for which the National Center for Transgender Equality announced it plans to “make sure trans people were more visible in Washington than we have ever been before.”
Trans activists also pointed out that Carmon’s death marked the second known murder of a transgender person in 2019 in the U.S. following the reporting of 24 trans murders across the country in 2018.
Budd said HIPS and the D.C. LGBT social services center Casa Ruby were planning to hold a vigil in Carmon’s honor and a press conference to discuss the murder possibly on Monday, April 1, around 6:30 p.m. at a location to be announced.