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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, May 4, 2012 - Volume 40 Issue 18
California Trans woman murdered in possible hate crime
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California Trans woman murdered in possible hate crime

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Brandy Martell was shot dead in downtown Oakland, California, early in the morning of April 29. She was 37.

Oakland police said she had been shot repeatedly through the window and side door of her car as she sat near the intersection of Franklin and 13th streets near the city center.

According to an as-yet unidentified witness, who said she was in the car with Martell, the victim, the witness, and two other Trans women had been hanging out in the parked car for several hours.

At about 3 a.m., the witness said, two men approached the car and struck up a conversation. Martell told the men that she and the other women in the car were Transgender. The men then left.

Two hours later, the witness said, the men reappeared and one of them stuck the barrel of an automatic weapon into the crack of Martell's window. He then shot Martell in the side.

The other women fled and Martell tried to drive away. She only made it as far as the intersection. The assailant then fired multiple shots into the car. Two of the shots hit Martell.

The shooter and the other man escaped on foot. The other women in the car were taken away by the police to be interviewed as potential witnesses.

Martell died at the scene.

The Oakland Police Department would not comment on the case, and has not released any public statements.

Martell worked as a Transgender peer advocate at the TransVision Center in Fremont, a group that provides medical and psychological support to Trans people in the Bay Area.

TransVision Center director Tiffany Woods, who worked closely with Martell, said she would be missed.

'Brandy had a serious sense of humor - she could impersonate anyone after five minutes of meeting them,' Woods says. 'And she was very close to her family, and very into spending time with them. She was very close to her mom and dad.'

Woods said she hears many reports of assault and violence against Transgender people in the Bay Area every month.

'There are no safe spaces for them, no resources for them, no places for them to go and just be themselves,' said Woods, who is also Transgender.

She added that until there is a place for Transgender women - especially Trans women of color - in our society, they will be forced to live on the margins and be vulnerable to violence.

Oakland has a long history of hate crimes, particularly against Transgender women, Woods said. Many Transgender women have difficulty being hired, and turn to sex work as a source of income, thus exposing them to higher risk of violence.

Woods added that Martell herself was not a sex worker.

A vigil was held in Martell's honor on the night of her murder at the scene. It was organized by members of Occupy Oakland, Woods says, with some 75 people in attendance. A public funeral will be held May 9, and another celebration of her life is also being planned for later in May.

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