Jamie Lee Wounded Arrow, 28, was found dead in her Sioux Falls, S.D., apartment last Friday night by police, local station KSFY reported.
Wounded Arrow identified as a trans woman and a two-spirit (LGBTQ) member of the Oglala Lakota Tribe. She grew up on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.
She’s the second trans person to be reported murdered this year, according to advocates, including the New York City Anti-Violence Project. Police are investigating her death as a homicide and have a suspect in custody, according to local reports. The Sioux Falls Police Department told Fusion the case is not being treated as a hate crime.
“We don’t have any indication that it was a hate crime. We’re still looking into a few different things…so that could change. But the way things stand right now, we don’t have any indication that this was any different from any other murder,” Sam Clemens, Public Information Officer for the Sioux Falls Police Department, told Fusion.
South Dakota’s state hate crime laws do not include protections for sexual orientation or gender identity, according to the Movement Advancement Project.
Friends and local LGBTQ advocates mourned her death this week. Wounded Arrow was a leader in the LGBTQ community and was eager to provide support for two-spirit transgender youth in Native communities. She graduated from Pine Ridge High School and studied human services and social work at the Oglala Lakota College in Pine Ridge, according to her Facebook page.
“She is the type of person that when she talks, people stop to listen,” Reina Parker, youth outreach director for a local LGBTQ advocacy group called the Center of Equality, told the Argus Leader. “The impact she leaves on people after meeting her once is something nobody forgets.”
Just one week into the new year, advocates say Wounded Arrow’s killing and that of another trans woman of color, Mesha Caldwell, are stark reminders of the violence faced by trans people in America, and trans women of color in particular.
“Jamie’s homicide is the second homicide of a transgender woman of color in 2017 and we are only seven days into the new year,” said Shelby Chestnut, Director of Community Organizing and Public Advocacy at the New York City Anti-Violence Project, in a statement. “Her homicide is especially troubling as it highlights the disproportionate impact violence has on trans people of color, especially two-spirit people who are often invisible within LGBTQ communities.”