About 50 people gathered outside Wilmington City Hall Friday to light candles, leave flowers, share encouragement and mourn the presumed death of KC Johnson.
According to the Wilmington Police Department, Johnson, a 27-year-old transgender woman, was killed on the 1300 block of King Street on Friday. Johnson was last seen in the 1900 block of Tradd Court on Thursday, Jan. 12 and reported missing the next day.
Police have charged South Carolina resident William Hicks, 26, with first-degree murder, robbery with a dangerous weapon and kidnapping in connection to Johnson’s presumed death.
More:SC man charged with murder in disappearance, presumed death of missing Wilmington woman
The event was organized by the LGBTQ Center of the Cape Fear Coast and was followed by a candlelight vigil from Archie Blue Park to King Street, where police believe Johnson was killed.
Hicks’ arrest came the same day officials in Georgia announced the discovery of a body there, saying in a news release the Wilmington Police Department was the lead on the case. As of Thursday, WPD officials would not confirm if the remains are Johnson. Positive identification and a cause of death are awaiting an autopsy, officials said.
Hicks is being held in jail in South Carolina without bail. According to reports, he appeared in Horry County court on Thursday and waived his rights to an extradition hearing.
Caroline Morin, the center’s executive director, believes Johnson’s death is part of a nationwide trend where transgender people — and particularly trans people of color — have been disproportionately targeted for violence.
Morin urged residents to support each other and was encouraged by the turnout.
“I’m really excited, it’s been a beautiful show of all the different types of folks who care about these issues,” she said. “From people who don’t have a connection to our community to allies with deep connections, the full spectrum of the community is on display.”
Participants, many of whom didn’t know Johnson personally, said they felt compelled to show solidarity with her family and Wilmington’s LGBTQ+ community.
“The more numbers the better for everybody,” said Anna Hursley, a recently out transgender woman. “We’re here and we’re just trying to live our lives.”
Hursley, 40, said despite the fear she feels expressing her identity in public, she decided to come out last year rather than continue the “misery” of not being herself.
She said her sense of safety in Wilmington can be hit or miss, where there may be some welcoming allies at one bar or business and people hostile to her just across the street.
Holly Wood said in recent years she’s felt less safe in some normally LGBTQ-friendly areas of Wilmington and is now more reluctant to out herself to some people as nonbinary. With incidents like Pride Boys members disrupting school events, Wood said she believes extremists have been emboldened.
More:Why do the US Capitol storming Proud Boys attend New Hanover school board meetings?
“That’s why we want to come out here and show support,” Wood said. “To show anyone who might feel like they’re dealing with things by themselves that they’re not alone.”
Reporter John Orona can be reached at 910-343-2327 or email@example.com.
This article originally appeared on Wilmington StarNews: LGBTQ+ community rallies around trans woman’s suspected murder