Not even a full week into the new year and violence has already struck the transgender community: Mesha Caldwell, who was found dead Wednesday outside of Canton, Mississippi, is believed to be the first trans casualty of 2017.
Police have confirmed that the 41-year-old was shot and they are investigating her death as a homicide.
Well-known in Canton as a makeup artist and hair stylist, Caldwell was loved by the community—former roommate Evonne Caho described her as “a happy person who loved everyone and never met a stranger.”
Adding insult to tragedy, initial media reports misgendered Caldwell. "Many trans people fear that in death their full identities will be erased, subtracted from, or diminished," GLAAD's Alex Schmider told Teen Vogue. "We've seen this happen."
With a total of 26 murders, 2016 marked the deadliest year on record for America's transgender community. In all, 95% of the victims were people of color, and 86% were women, according to HRC.
"This is the first homicide of a transgender person that NCAVP has responded to in 2017, during a time of heightened fear and increased violence against LGBTQ communities," said the Anti-Violence Project in a statement. "As we continue to hear more reports of violence, we must remind ourselves that this violence is not normal and fight harder than ever to keep transgender people safe."
Her murder is the second killing of a transgender woman in Mississippi in the past twelve months. In June, Dee Whigham, a 25-year-old nurse from Biloxi, was murdered in her hotel room.
Local law enforcement is still investigating Caldwell's death but have not announced any suspects.