Trans woman's death a possible hate crime, family and friends say

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A transgender woman was shot and killed in Chicago’s East Chatham neighborhood on Christmas day, and her family and friends spoke out Monday to CBS Chicago. They said her homicide is a possible hate crime.

She was listed as a John Doe, but Courtney “Eshay” Key’s family said she had been misgendered – and on top of everything else, it’s an insult to her and her memory.

Key, 25, was described by those relatives and friends as the life of the party – hilarious and determined.

“She wanted to be something,” said lifelong friend Beverly Ross. “She wanted to beat the odds.”

They also have a problem with how Key has been described elsewhere.

“We are human. We are real,” Ross said. “We’re tired of Chicago police misgendering trans people; gender non-conforming people.”

A trans woman, Key has been identified as both a man and a John Doe.

“They’re dehumanizing our character,” Ross said.

CBS Chicago asked Chicago Police about that and we were told, again, the victim is listed as a male. The station was also told detectives are still investigating the death.

Police found Key’s body Christmas night. She was pronounced dead on the scene, police said.

At first, Key was believed to be the victim of a hit-and-run crash. But police later found she had suffered gunshot wounds.

With only her family identifying her right now as they make funeral arrangements, her family and friends say there’s an important reason they had to speak out.

“I believe Eshay was targeted,” Ross said. “We need to get to the bottom of this because Black trans lives matter. We are not going anywhere.”

Police said they’re still investigating Key’s death as a homicide but wouldn’t comment on the family’s belief it was a targeted hate crime.

The Cook County Medical Examiner’s office hasn’t responded to CBS Chicago’s requests for more information.

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