Police have apprehended the man suspected of murdering Tracy Williams, a 22-year-old woman who became the 16th trans woman to be killed in the U.S. earlier this year.
Williams, who also went by the name Tracy Single, was found at a Houston gas station on the morning of July 30 with a puncture wound and lacerations. It took two weeks for police to identify her, working with local LGBTQ+ organizers.
Late last week, authorities arrested Joshua Dominic Bourgeois, a 25-year-old who had been dating Williams. There was no mention of motive.
Williams is remembered by friends as having loved fashion, as well as having a spontaneous and larger-than-life personality. She spent every Thursday night dining with homeless youth at Montrose Grace Place, a support facility for LGBTQ+ youth experiencing homelessness, and enjoyed teaching people to dance.
“This is a big loss for the community,” Montrose Grace Place Executive Director Courtney Sellers told the Houston Chronicle. “It’s hard for so many reasons.”
Montrose Grace Place has maintained a memorial since Williams’ death, reserving a seat at a table in her honor with photos, art, and notes from friends.
Williams is just the latest in a string of violent killings affecting trans women of color in Houston. Brani Seals was killed at a construction site in 2017, with her killer still unknown. Earlier this year, an unknown shooter killed Candy Elease Pinky at a Houston gas station.
Earlier this year, a viral video showed a crowd violently beating 23-year-old Muhlaysia Booker in Dallas, and within a month she had been killed. Police arrested Kendrell Lavar Lyles in connection with that slaying.
According to the Human Rights Campaign, violence against trans people has been at a high level for several years, with most victims being Black women. In 2018, there were 26 documented cases of a trans person being killed; in 2017, it was 29.
A report by the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs indicates that Texas has more LGBTQ+ murder victims than any other state. What’s more, the state allows suspects to use the “gay and trans panic” defense, claiming that they committed murder out of fear of LGBTQ+ people. Only eight states ban the defense.
Democratic State Representative Garnet Coleman, who represents Houston, has been trying for years to pass hate crime legislation that would protect trans people in the state. The National Black Trans Advocacy Conference pushed lawmakers to pass HB 1513 this year, but the bill languished in the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee without a vote.