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UPDATED: Trans Murder in South Side Not Being Investigated as a Hate Crime

“I think he was killed probably because of his sexuality. By him being gay. That’s the only thing I can see. I feel like it’s a hate crime,” Hawkes said.

GayRVA Staff | November 18, 2013

Vigil photos by Chris Suarez 

Update 11/18: 

Richmond Police have given a few details related to the murder of trans-woman Amari Hill.

Major Oddeta Johnson said the victim was NOT shot in the groin area and, due to the relationship between the current suspect and the victim, the crime is not being investigated as a hate crime.

It could not be confirmed if Hill was found in women’s clothes.

This was the extent of the information provided as the investigation is on-going, but Maj. Johnson said when more information was made available it would be shared.

Below is the original story from last week- 11/15 – it has been amended to reflect information provided by RPD. 

Amari S Hill, a Baltimore native now residing in Richmond, was found shot dead in a Richmond’s South Side alley way last Sunda

Photo of Hill via Facebook

An unidentified member of the local sexual-minority health community confirmed Hill had started transitioning about two months ago and was still early to the process. Hill had not begun hormone treatments, but friends say she had begun the process. 

“His(sic) birthday was yesterday, he(sic) was only 22 when he(sic) died… he(sic) would have been 23,” said Hill’s friend Danielle Davis.

Hill’s sexual identity was an issue with her family, according to Davis who knew Hill to dress as a women quite a bit, but when with family she would “tone it done.”

Davis said when she heard of Hill’s murder she knew it was a crime against her gender identity, but details were thin.

“When they found him, he was Amari (in women’s clothes),” said Davis. ”This could have been anybody’s baby, and I just can’t let it go.”

Richmond Police have yet to respond to questions about the case – and email sent to a member of the trans community from LGBT Liaison Odetta Johnson said “the detectives are in the early stages of the investigation” but no other details were given.

Early media reports of this murder used Amari’s male name, Rodney White, and male pronouns, but no additional details were provided.

A vigil took place tonight to honor Hill’s passing. Organized by members of the neighborhood, Richmond’s South Side is no stranger to violent crime or these kind of events.

Hill’s Godfather, Paul Hawkes, believes Hill’s sexuality played a role in his murder. “I think he(sic) was killed probably because of his sexuality. By him(sic) being gay. That’s the only thing I can see. I feel like it’s a hate crime,” Hawkes said.

Hawkes, just like the rest of the community, is devastated. “He was always a loving person. He always kept a smile on his face. Always encouraging, and would never hurt anybody,” Hawkes said of White. “Your life shouldn’t be taken because of the choices you make. I just want the world to know that he’s really going to be missed.”

Reverend Jean Pupke of spoke out for the Richmond community. “This is another of a very sad events that have been happening in the city. We must come to an absolute conclusion that we will not allow these horrible murders to continue.” Although Pupke is aware that Hill may have been targeted for his orientation, but believes that that is unimportant. “It doesn’t matter. Every person in this city is a valuable part of our city,” Pupke said.

Major Steven Drew of the major crimes division believes whoever killed White will be found. “The detectives have made a lot of progress in this case, they have strong leads,” Drew said. The police have a solid relationship with the people in the neighborhood where White was found, and fully intend to give their full support. “We’re going to be here for the family and help them get through the grieving process. We’ve made a lot of progress in this case, our hearts go out to the family,” Drew said.

Drew asks that if anyone has any tips on the crime, no matter how insignificant they may seem, that they contact the police. Anyone who was in the area that night is asked to contact the police by calling Crime Stoppers at 804 780 1000.