RICHMOND, Va. -- Friends and family gathered Friday evening to remember a transgender woman killed in Richmond during a month meant to uplift trans voices.
Richmond Police are still searching for the person who shot and killed Chae’Meshia Simms on the city’s Northside Monday morning.
Emergency crews responded to a call for a car that crashed in an alleyway off Cheatwood Avenue in the Washington Park neighborhood just before 6 a.m., according to detectives.
Simms, a transgender woman in her 30s, was found in the driver’s seat.
“She had suffered an apparent gunshot wound and was pronounced dead at the scene,” a police spokesperson said.
The victim's sister said Simms was found shot to death inside her mom’s rental car.
She was driving home, according to her family.
Victim's father: 'This is tremendously heartbreaking'
Simms' father, who attended the Friday vigil, remembered his child as a "well-loved individual" who was "always caring for others."
"With the help of the LGBT community, the support of the Richmond Police Department, as you can see out here with the community, we're going to continue to keep looking," Simms' father said.
Simms' father called the loss "tremendously heartbreaking" and said the family needs to know what happened.
"We're going to find out the reasoning behind it, so we can have closure as a family," he said.
He urged whoever is responsible to do the right thing.
"I ask em, to turn yourself in," he said. "We're never going to stop looking. We're never going to stop looking."
Activist: 'It’s hitting home in Richmond'
Zakia McKensey, a Richmond activist, said she knew firsthand what it was like to lose a close friend.
Her friend Nooni Norwood, also a transgender woman, was found shot on the city’s Southside four years ago.
“As a trans woman of color I know most well how we are disproportionately impacted and marginalized,” McKensey explained. “When will I stop seeing news feeds or news threads or stories about trans women being brutally murdered?”
McKensey started the Nationz Foundation five years ago to assist anyone with access to HIV and STI testing with a focus on the LGBTQ+ community.
Transgender Awareness Week, typically observed the second week of November, is a one-week celebration leading up to Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR), which memorializes victims of transphobic violence.
TDOR was observed on November 20, just three days before Simms was killed.
“For this to happen just a few days after, it’s hitting home in Richmond. It makes people paranoid. It makes us as a trans community outraged and frustrated,” McKensey said.
In a report posted by the Human Rights Campaign, Simm’s death is believed to be at least the 39th violent death of a transgender or gender non-conforming person this year in the U.S.
“We are mourning Chae’Meshia along with her friends and family. Although I did not know Chae’Meshia personally, she was from my hometown, and her death impacts the trans and gender non-conforming community everywhere,” said HRC Director of Community Engagement for the Transgender Justice Initiative Tori Cooper. “We are continuing to see a devastating rate of violence against trans and gender non-conforming people in the United States, especially against Black and Brown trans women, and it must be stopped. It takes all of us to speak up and take action to end this violence.”
McKensey said we must work to remove the stigma after another act of violence against the trans community.
“Get to know the person. Have a conversation with the person and you’ll be so surprised at what you find when you open the book and read it instead of judging it by the cover,” she stated.
Detectives have not released a possible motive nor the circumstances surrounding her death.
The Medical Examiner will determine the cause and manner of death.
The Major Crimes division’s detectives are investigating this incident and ask anyone with information to call Major Crimes Detective M. Godwin at 804-646-5533 or Crime Stoppers at 804- 780-1000.