Was trans­gender woman’s slaying a hate crime?


In the middle of the night last Sunday morning, two men approached the car of Brandy Martell, who identified as transgender, in downtown Oakland.

Martell was in the car with three other transgender women. The conversation seemed civil, even after Martell told the men that she and her friends identified as transgender.

The women socialized in the car for another two hours, when the men returned. One placed the barrel of a gun into the crack of Martell’s window, and fired.

A witness in the back seat of the car told Oakland North the suspect shot Martell in the side. Martell attempted to drive away as the two passengers fled the vehicle.

The gunman fired multiple shots, hitting Martell twice. Martell only made it to the nearby intersection before her injuries stopped her. The two men got away on foot.

Some news outlets reported the shooting may have been a botched robbery, but the witness — who asked Oakland North to remain anonymous — believes Martell was the victim of a hate crime.

Oakland police did return calls by Oakland North regarding the case and have not distributed a press release or any other source of public information about the incident.

Martell was a transgender peer advocate at TransVision Center in Fremont. The group provides medical and psychological support to transgender people in the Bay Area.

Tiffany Woods, director of TransVision, who worked closely with Martell, said she would be missed greatly by her friends and family.

“Brandy had a serious sense of humor—she could impersonate anyone after five minutes of meeting them. And she was very close to her family, and very into spending time with them. She was very close to her mom and dad.”

Woods said that violence against the transgendered is still a huge issue:

“There are no safe spaces for them, no resources for them, no places for them to go and just be themselves.”

Woods, who is transgender herself, said that violence mostly affects women of color and, if they are continued to be allowed to live in the margins, they will always be the must vulnerable to violence.

Oakland has participated in the annual National Transgender Day of Remembrance, which is organized by Woods. Martell also played a significant role in last year’s events.

At the event, the names of hate crime victims are read, most of which are sex workers, some of whom are found without identification and families never claim them. Martell herself was not a sex worker, Woods told Oakland North.

A public funeral for Martell will take place next Wednesday at 11 a.m. at CP Bannon Mortuary on International Blvd.

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