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Investigation continues for murder of 17-year-old trans woman in Hampton, Va.

Man arrested for shooting at party where witnesses say suspect confronted victim

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Ariyanna Mitchell (Photo via Facebook)

Hampton, Va. police say they are continuing their investigation into the April 2 shooting death of a 17-year-old transgender woman who witnesses say was shot multiple times at a party by the boyfriend of a young woman who was arguing with a friend of the victim.

Police said the victim, who friends have identified as Hampton resident Ariyanna Mitchell, was pronounced dead at the scene shortly after 2:00 a.m. on April 2 at a residence on the 500 block of Wine Street in Hampton.

A statement released by Hampton police says the investigation into the incident led to the arrest on April 9 of Jimmy Leshawn Williams, 19, on charges of one count of Murder and one count of Use of Firearm in Commission of a Felony in connection with Mitchell’s murder. The statement says Williams, a resident of Nofolk, Va., was taken into custody in Chesapeake, Va.

Local TV station WAVY 10 reported it spoke with a friend of Mitchell who said the shooting stemmed from a fight at a party in Norfolk earlier in the night of the shooting between the friend and Williams’ girlfriend.  

“{Williams’ girlfriend] was going to get her boyfriend to shoot me and everybody in this house,” WAVY quoted the friend as saying. According to WAVY, the friend said the bullets fired by Williams were meant for her, not Mitchell.

The TV news station further reports that court documents disclose that a witness told police Williams arrived at the house in Hampton where the party was taking place in his girlfriend’s car and asked Mitchell whether she was involved in a fight involving his girlfriend. The witness reportedly told police Mitchel said she was involved. Other press reports have cited sources saying Mitchell intervened to help protect her friend, who got into an altercation with Williams’ girlfriend.

“Paperwork says the witness told police Williams asked if Mitchell was a boy or a girl,” WAVY TV news reports in one of its stories on the incident. “Documents say Mitchell replied a boy, and that’s when Williams shot Mitchell multiple times,” WAVY reports.

Jimmy Leshawn Williams (Photo courtesy of the Hampton Police Department)

Friends of Mitchell have said she identified as a girl.

An earlier police statement released at the time the murder occurred, which appealed to the public for information about the then unidentified suspect, identifies victim Mitchell as a “17-year-old male” and does not release Mitchell’s name.

Hampton police spokesperson Sgt. Reggie Williams told the Washington Blade it was the victim’s family that identified Mitchell as a male.

“Because the victim is a juvenile, we don’t identify the victim in our press releases,” Williams said. “But according to the family, the victim is a 17-year-old male,” he said.

Williams said copies of the police report for the incident would not be available at this time because the investigation is continuing.

“The motive and circumstances surrounding this incident remain under investigation and there is no further information to release at this time,” the earlier police statement released at the time of the murder says.

An obituary for Mitchell posted on the website of the ME Fisher Funeral Home in Newport News, Va., which handled funeral arrangements for Mitchell, appears to contradict the police claim that Mitchell’s parents identified Mitchel as a male. The obituary, which presumably was prepared from information provided by Mitchell’s family, refers to Mitchell as a woman and uses her female first name.

“Ariyanna was a student in her junior year at the East End Academy under the direction of Mrs. Ruby Gilliam, CEO,” the obituary says. “She was an avid member of the Triple E (Electra Eagles Elite) Dance Academy under the guidance of Mrs. Pandora Carter,” the obituary continues.  “Ariyanna loved dancing and styling hair. She was truly unique, funny, and loved by everyone.”

The obituary identifies Mitchell’s parents, Kashunda Mitchell and Marvin Chadwick, and six siblings along with grandparents, aunts, and seven cousins as among Mitchell’s surviving family members.  

However, the obituary, while using female pronouns and using her chosen first name of Aryanna, also uses in its headline a male first name.

The Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBTQ advocacy group, said in a statement that Mitchell’s death marked at least the 11th violent murder of a transgender or gender non-conforming person in the U.S. in 2022. The HRC statement says the group was aware of at least 57 transgender or gender non-conforming deaths in 2021 due to violence, which it says was the largest number of fatal trans violence incidents recorded in a single year since it began tracking anti-trans violence in 2013.

“We say ‘at least’ because too often these deaths go unreported – or misreported,” the HRC statement says, adding that the number of trans murders could be far greater than the numbers reported by law enforcement agencies.

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Virginia

Va. lawmaker introduces bill to ban trans athletes from school sports teams

State Del. Karen Greenhalgh introduced HB 1387 on Tuesday

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Virginia state Del. Karen Greenhalgh (R-Virginia Beach) (Screen capture via YouTube)

A Virginia lawmaker has introduced a bill that would ban transgender athletes from school sports teams that correspond with their gender identity.

State Del. Karen Greenhalgh (R-Virginia Beach) introduced House Bill 1387 on Tuesday

An HB 1387 summary notes it would require “each interscholastic, intercollegiate, intramural or club athletic team or sport sponsored by a public elementary or secondary school or by a public institution of higher education to be expressly designated as one of the following based on biological sex: (i) males, men or boys; (ii) females, women or girls; or (iii) coed or mixed if participation on such team or sport is open to both (a) males, men or boys and (b) females, women or girls.” 

“The bill requires identification of the student’s biological sex on an athletics eligibility form signed by a licensed physician, nurse practitioner or physician assistant to be submitted by any such student who desires to try out for or participate in an interscholastic, intercollegiate, intramural or club athletic team or sport. The bill prohibits any such team or sport that is expressly designated for females, women or girls from being open to students whose biological sex is male,” reads the summary. “The bill further prohibits any interscholastic, intercollegiate, intramural or club athletic team or sport sponsored by a public elementary or secondary school or a public institution of higher education from competing against any interscholastic, intercollegiate, intramural or club athletic team or sport sponsored by a private elementary or secondary school or private institution of higher education unless such private school or institution complies with the applicable provisions of the bill.”

Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin is among those who have said they do not support allowing trans children to play on sports teams that are consistent with their gender identity.

Youngkin in September announced his plans to revise guidelines designed to protect trans and nonbinary students that his predecessor, Democrat Ralph Northam, signed into law in 2020. The Virginia Department of Education has announced the proposed revisions will not take effect until at least Nov. 26.

The Virginia General Assembly’s 2023 legislative session is scheduled to begin on Jan. 11.

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Virginia

Spanberger defeats Vega in Va.

Democratic congresswoman won with 51.92 percent of vote

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U.S. Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.) (Photo public domain)

Democratic Congresswoman Abigail Spanberger on Tuesday defeated Republican Yesli Vega in Virginia’s 7th Congressional District.

Spanberger was ahead of Vega by a 51.92-47.85 percent margin with 214 of 226 precincts reporting.

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Virginia

Wexton wins re-election in Va.

Democrat fended off challenge from Republican Hung Cao

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Virginia Congresswoman Jennifer Wexton (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Virginia Congresswoman Jennifer Wexton on Tuesday defeated Republican challenger Hung Cao.

Wexton, a former Virginia state senator who has represented the state’s 10th Congressional District since 2019, was ahead of Cao by a 52.39-47.44 percent margin with 202 of 209 precincts reporting.

Wexton said Cao called her to congratulate her.

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