Trans murder remains unsolved
by Seth Hemmelgarn
One year after her violent shooting death on a downtown Oakland street, those who knew Brandy Martell are preparing to remember her and call attention to her killing, which hasn't been solved.
Martell, a transgender woman who lived in Hayward, was shot at about 5 a.m. April 29, 2012 as she and some friends socialized in her car at Franklin and 13th streets in Oakland. The motive for the homicide, which drew national attention, isn't clear.
Fremont's Tri-City Health Center and TransVision, a transgender program based at the center, are sponsoring a candlelight vigil set for 7 to 8:30 p.m., Monday, April 29, at the scene of the shooting in Oakland. Martell, who's been remembered for her sense of humor and for being a role model, was once a peer advocate for TransVision.
Officer Johnna Watson, a spokeswoman for the Oakland Police Department, said the investigation into Martell's homicide is still active, and police are still working on leads, but she couldn't discuss details.
"Investigators have followed up on leads, but we did not have enough information to make an arrest." Watson said.
Along with the people in Martell's car, others were nearby when Martell was killed, and Watson said that getting people who saw or heard something to come forward "is going to really be the key" to finding who's responsible.
While Martell, who was 37, is missed, her death has brought some changes.
Tiffany Woods, who's TransVision's coordinator and knew Martell well, said "the major change" is that there's "much more awareness of transgender people in Alameda County. They live here. They're part of the community. This could happen to them."
Woods noted she's recently done training on sensitivity to transgender issues at the Oakland Police Academy and for Alameda County prosecutors. Woods has also met with police and other city officials as part of an LGBT advisory board, and she said the aim is to have similar meetings on a quarterly basis.
Watson, an out lesbian, said that since Martell's death, police and the transgender community have had "increased communications," and her agency "continues to build a relationship based on trust" with them.
"It really has opened up a dialogue," she said.
Woods and Terry Washington, a friend and co-worker of Martell's, indicated her death has made other transgender women be more cautious and not stay out in the streets late at night.
In an email, though, Washington, 30, wasn't optimistic Martell's killer would be found.
"There are still no leads and that makes me very upset," Washington said. "I feel that the case of my dear friend and colleague will or has already gone cold."
Woods is more hopeful.
"Somebody saw something that night," Woods said. "Sooner or later, something's going to have to break."
Anyone with information about Martell's murder can send the Oakland Police Department tips anonymously by texting TIP OAKLANDPD to 888777, or by calling (510) 535-4867. Tips can also be given anonymously to Crime Stoppers at (510) 777-8572. The case number is 12-020709.
Candles will be on hand at Monday's vigil, which is also designed to draw awareness to anti-transgender violence, but people are welcome to bring their own.