Police in South Carolina are investigating whether the killing of a 29-year-old transgender woman was a hate crime. Denali Berries Stuckey was found fatally shot along a North Charleston roadway Saturday by police responding to a report of a pedestrian possibly struck by a car, CBS affiliate WCSC reported.
Police said they have not yet identified a suspect or a motive, the station reported.
'We definitely have a homicide. I think it would be premature to label it a hate crime," North Charleston Police Department Deputy Chief Greg Gomes told the station. "Obviously, we haven't closed the book on that or anything else."
Friends and family gathered Monday to honor Stuckey at a candlelight vigil.
"This is unacceptable," Belinda Frasier, a friend of the family, said in an emotional statement. "It is not going to be tolerated."
Stuckey is the 12th transgender woman slain across the country in 2019, according to the Human Rights Campaign. All of the victims were black. According to the group, transgender women of color are disproportionately affected by fatal violence.
Stuckey is also the third black transgender woman murdered since 2018 in South Carolina, which has no laws to enhance sentences for hate crimes. In a statement, the city of North Charleston said hate crimes "warrant punishment beyond the jurisdictional range that any municipality can impose" and said effective hate crimes legislation must come from the state or federal legislature.
"The motives of the death of Denali Berries Stuckey are still being investigated, but we hope that through this tragic act, greater awareness is gained of the continuing discrimination and harassment of the LGBTQ community, and hope that one day, our society will achieve true full acceptance of all," said the statement released to WCSC by city spokesman Ryan Johnson.
"As with all crimes within the community, NCPD's goal remains to quickly and judiciously find the perpetrator(s), determine a motive, and punish according to the law."