Transgender Woman's Slaying in Philadelphia Believed to Be 20th This Year in US

PHOTO:Philadelphia police are asking for the publics help in solving the murder of a transgender woman, Keisha Jenkins, pictured here in this undated file photo Tatted Godess Kesh/Facebook
Philadelphia police are asking for the public's help in solving the murder of a transgender woman, Keisha Jenkins, pictured here in this undated file photo.

Keisha Jenkins, a 22-year-old transgender woman from Philadelphia, was recently beaten and shot to death by a group of men, according to police, who said they are investigating whether her gender identity played a role in the slaying.

Jenkins is at least the 20th trans woman killed in the United States this year -- and the 18th trans woman of color, according to a report and statement published by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation (HCR) in partnership with the Trans People of Color Coalition (TPOCC).

The HCR and TPOCC are LGBTQ+ advocacy groups that have been working together since the beginning of the year to keep a running record of the violence transgender people face.

Jenkins was attacked and beaten by five to six unidentified men early Tuesday around 2:30 a.m., shortly after she was dropped off near Hunting Park, a Philadelphia Police Department spokesman told ABC News today.

Police believe one of the attackers pulled a gun and fired two shots into Jenkins' back while she was on the ground.

She was unresponsive when police and medics arrived and was pronounced dead at the Einstein Medical Center at 2:53 a.m., police said, adding that the suspects are still at large and police are looking at all possible motives, including the possibility that her gender identity may have played a role in her killing.

Jenkins' death has sparked an outcry from the transgender community and advocates, including the HRC, which said in a statement that more action must be taken to address "what has become a nationwide epidemic of anti-transgender violence."

"Even in a moment of unprecedented visibility for transgender people, their right to simply live authentically is threatened daily by violence, with countless unreported or unseen cases falling behind scattered headlines," Judy Shepard wrote in an op-ed co-written with HRC President Chad Griffin for its website.

Shepard is the mother of Matthew Shepard, a gay man whose murder in 1988 "became a rallying cry for LGBT advocates around issues of bias-motivated violence," the HRC said.

Shepard's death, along with the murder of James Byrd Jr., a black man killed by white supremacists, led to the passage of a federal hate crimes prevention act in 2009, which extends a previously enacted law to include crimes based on gender, sexual orientation or disability.

Though Jenkins identified as a woman and used the pronouns "she" and "her" on her personal Facebook page, her sister Ronnia Jenkins told ABC News that their family didn't think she was transgender. Ronnia said Keisha went by "Stephen Jenkins and was a boy" most of the time when with the family "and only dressed like a girl sometimes."

"[She] was loving, caring and joking," Ronnia Jenkins said. "[She] loved to draw, and [she] was an artist. We'll miss [her]."

Keisha Jenkins' death is also being mourned by high-profile transgender celebrities and advocates.

"Another tragic loss," New York Times bestselling author and T.V. show host Janet Mock tweeted. "The state of emergency on black & Latina trans women's lives is real. #GirlsLikeUs"