PHILADELPHIA (WTXF) - A worried LGBT community that says one violent gunman in West Philly has his sights on transgender women.
"This is nothing new. And we've been saying this for years that trans-women of color are in eminently more danger than most of the other folks in the LGBTQ community," Deja Alvarez explained.
That may be true, especially on the streets of West Philadelphia, where three transgender women were held up at gunpoint Sunday night. Monday night, a man was shot to death coming to the rescue of a transgender woman friend who was being robbed.
Police say both incidents occurred after "dates" were arranged on Backpage, a classifieds website. Descriptions of the gunmen are similar.
Deja Alvarez says the transgender community is scared.
"This person may be targeting transgender people and possibly sex workers. Because, again, they feel like they're dispensable but they feel like they're an easy target. They feel like they either won't report it, or if they report it to authorities, authorities won't care," Alvarez added.
Alvarez describes a longstanding stigma that's historically made trans women frequent targets, but she adds that Philly Police absolutely do care. Spokesman John Stanford today said Philly Police are pursuing all leads, but can't confirm that the same man's responsible for both crimes.
"A little too early for us to say that any particular group is being targeted as a result of people responding to Backpage ads or as a result of these incidents because again, we don't know that for sure at this point in time," Lt. Stanford said.
A statement issued by a local LGBTQ leader today describes the suspect as a black male, in his late twenties, medium height and weight wearing a skull cap and a puffy ski jacket. The statement also urges anyone with any information to call Philly Police immediately, especially if they've been similarly victimized.
"In the effort of investigating we want to know if there are other individuals that have been the victim of similar crimes, similar in nature, similar style, whether it's Backpage ads or any type of incident.
The adult neighborhood of Backpage, the website where the dates were likely arranged, was shut down on January 9th, the night of the second murderous holdup. The website calls "Unconstitutional Government Censorship."