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Shai Vanderpump Shot, Killed in NJ, 32nd Trans Murder of 2021

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Thursday August 5, 2021
Originally published on August 5, 2021

Lethal anti-trans violence claimed another victim when trans equality advocate Shai Vanderpump, 23, was shot and killed in Trenton, New Jersey on July 30. Her murder — the 32nd known incident of deadly anti-trans violence this year — was decried by the Human Rights Campaign.

Local newspaper The Trentonian reported that, "On Friday, July 30, 2021, at approximately 4:40 a.m., Trenton police responded to a report of a shooting at a residence in the first block of Kelsey Avenue." [Editor's note: The Trentonian report deadnames Vanderpump.]

Responding officers found Vanderpump "shot in the face" and she was taken to a nearby hospital where she was "pronounced dead a short time later."

Garden State Equality condemned Vanderpump's murder, writing in a Facebook post that she was a "a fierce LGBTQ advocate" and assuring the community, "we are in contact with the @NewJerseyOAG's Bias Crime Unit and will fight to bring justice to Shai and her loved ones."

"The loss of Shai Vanderpump is devastating," said Tori Cooper, the Human Rights Campaign's Director of Community Engagement for the Transgender Justice Initiative. "Shai was a well-known LGBTQ advocate in New Jersey, and her loss will be felt by her friends, family and local community, as well as the wider LGBTQ community."

The Trentonian reported that police had arrested a suspect, Daniel L. Smith, the day after Vanderpump's murder.

The suspect "was taken into custody late Saturday evening during a motor vehicle stop in Ewing by members of the Mercer County Prosecutor's Special Investigations Unit," the newspaper detailed. "He is charged with one count of murder and multiple weapons offenses."

Vanderpump's killing follows the July 17 murder of 20-year-old Taya Ashton in Suitland, Maryland, who, The Washington Post reported, "was shot and killed at her apartment". NBC News Washington reported that a suspect in that case, 27-year-old DeAllen Price, was arrested after fleeing police in Washington, D.C. and discarding a weapon on the tracks of the city's Metro. "Price and Ashton were in a relationship, according to the arrest warrant," the Post reported.

The Human Rights Campaign, which tracks lethal anti-trans violence, noted that 2020 was the deadliest year on record for the trans community, with most of the victims being trans women of color. "A total of 44 fatalities were tracked by HRC" last year, the rights organization reported.

The actual numbers are likely higher. The HRC pointed out that "too often these stories go unreported — or misreported," with police and the media prone to misgendering and deadnaming the victims.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.