Jaida Peterson was one of the murdered trans women. The other victim has not yet been identified. (Photo Credit: hrc.com)

Police in Charlotte issued a dire warning on Thursday, saying an unknown person or more than one person may be targeting transgender women with deadly violence. Already, officials said, two trans women have been killed in recent days.

In one case, police discovered the body of Jaida Peterson, 29, in a hotel room, on Easter Sunday. Peterson had been shot. At a vigil last week, loved ones told the Charlotte Observer they knew she was a sex worker for a time, but they don’t agree that’s why she was targeted. Her funeral took place in South Carolina on Tuesday.

Details on the identity of the second person who was killed were not immediately available Thursday. The victim was found in a hotel room at the Sleep Inn, located on North Tryon Street in University City early Thursday morning, authorities said.

In what he called an “urgent” message, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police spokesman Rob Tufano said Thursday both recent cases had clear similarities:

Both victims were shot to death in hotel rooms and, according to the police department, both were sex workers and both were trans women.

Sex workers are disproportionately Black or Latinx trans women because many don’t have any other options. Trans women of color are discriminated against and — due to racism, homophobia and transphobia — they are more likely to be unemployed, more likely to live in poverty, more likely to be without a college degree, more likely to be incarcerated and more likely to be homeless.

And they’re more likely to experience violence in their lifetime. According to the National Center for Transgender Equality, more than one in four trans people has faced a bias-driven assault, and rates are higher for trans women and trans people of color.

Tufano said it’s not clear yet that the two recent murders are connected or how the suspect or suspects came in contact with the victims.

“We don’t know … but they’re consistent enough … that it’s gotten our attention and it needs to get the attention of the community,” he said.

Tufano said the police department had been in contact with leadership from the city’s LGBTQ+ community.

Trans women involved in sex work in the Charlotte area “have to know there has probably been never a more vulnerable time for them” until arrests are made, Tufano said.

“They have to be hyper cautious, hyper vigilant.”

In a statement later, CMPD officials wrote: “Detectives have yet to determine whether the two cases are connected, but given the circumstances, the CMPD is encouraging members of the LGBTQ community engaged in sex work to exercise extreme caution and immediately report anything suspicious by calling 9-1-1.”

This story originally appeared on the Charlotte Observer, charlotteobserver.com

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