Friends, family say Chicago transgender woman’s death was a hate crime

A screen capture of CBS 2 Chicago's report on the death of Courtney "Eshay" Key.

CHICAGO — The family and friends of a transgender woman killed in Chicago on Christmas are saying her death was a hate crime.

The loved ones of Courtney “Eshay” Key told CBS 2 Chicago that she had been misgendered by the police investigating the murder. When the TV station contacted the police, the department confirmed Key was recorded as male.

“We are human. We are real,” Key’s friend Beverly Ross told CBS 2. “We’re tired of Chicago police misgendering trans people; gender non-conforming people.”

The TV station reported that police found Key’s body on the south side of 82nd Street near Drexel Avenue on Christmas Day evening. She was pronounced dead on the scene, police. Police originally believed Key to be the victim of a hit-and-run, but later found she had suffered gunshot wounds.

The Chicago Police are investigating but wouldn’t comment to CBS 2 on if it was a hate crime. The medical examiner’s office hadn’t responded to requests for more information.

“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.”

“Eshay Key was a vibrant and beautiful woman who had a big heart and big dreams,” said Tori Cooper, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC)Director of Community Engagement for the Transgender Justice Initiative, in a statement. “Eshay did not deserve to have her life cut short — none of the transgender and gender non-conforming people killed this year deserved that.”

The HRC said they had tracked 43 deaths this year of transgender and gender non-conforming people, more than any year since they started in 2013.