A transgender woman shot dead in Texas earlier this month is the first known trans homicide victim of 2016, activists said.
In a statement issued on Tuesday that identified Monica Loera, 43, by her birth name and used masculine pronouns, the Austin Police Department said Loera was shot around 3 a.m. local time on Jan. 22. She was taken to hospital, where she later died.
On Wednesday, police said they arrested JonCasey William Rowell, 29, over Loera's death. He was charged with first degree murder and is being held in the Travis county jail on a $250,000 bond, according to prison records.
According to his arrest affidavit, Rowell was invited to Loera's home by text message, but he later returned and argued with her about a possible theft, the Austin-American Statesman reported.
On Friday, a report in the Austin Chronicle revealed that Loera identified as a trans woman.
“She was funny, [and] beautiful,” a close friend told the Chronicle. “I never saw her as David, I saw her as Monica. She loved Madonna and she loved to cook.”
Loera's death, which was Austin's first homicide this year, comes after a spate of trans homicides in 2015, with at least 22 transgender or gender-nonconforming individuals killed.
"It took only three weeks for the initial quiet of 2016 to be shattered by the murder of another trans person," said Nell Gaither, president of Trans Pride Initiative, in a statement.
Nineteen of the victims were individuals of color, according to the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, which documented the deaths.
"It may be a new year, but it's looking like, unfortunately we're telling the same horrific story," said Beverly Tillery, executive director of the New York City Anti-Violence Project, in an emailed statement to BuzzFeed News.
"Once again, our community is experiencing the double tragedy of both the homicide of a transgender woman of color and the added insult of police officials and media erasing her real identity from their accounts and reports.
"As our community continues to mobilize to address this violence, we will not tolerate the misnaming and mis-gendering that further devalues the lives of all transgender women," she said.