SF trans community in mourning after woman's killing

  • by John Ferrannini, Assistant Editor
  • Tuesday May 21, 2024
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Friends are mourning the killing of Michelle Henry. Image: Courtesy SF LGBT Community Center
Friends are mourning the killing of Michelle Henry. Image: Courtesy SF LGBT Community Center

San Francisco's transgender community is coming together to mourn one of its own who was killed last week. Meanwhile, a woman was arrested in connection with the case, according to the San Francisco Police Department.

The city's LGBT community center stated in an email that Michelle Henry, 25, who'd been a participant in the center's youth program, had been killed May 15.

"Michelle was a ray of light for our team and so many others she connected with over the last two years at the center," stated Rebecca Rolfe, a lesbian who is the center's executive director. "Her warmth and presence were felt in every room she walked in. She was kind, deeply caring, courageous, and fearless. Michelle's death is a profound loss for our community. There are no words to fully convey what we are collectively feeling right now, our grief is immense.

"We want to thank those who cherished Michelle, and our hearts are with all who had the opportunity to truly know, love, and care for her," Rolfe continued.

People involved with the center are creating an altar to honor her life. At 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 21, there will be a vigil at the Mother bar at 3079 16th Street.

Veronica Pritipaul, who is trans and a navigation specialist at the center, stated to the B.A.R. May 21, "She was a light in our community and committed her life to trans liberation. With her passing, we have not only lost our dear sister, but a mentor and stalwart of the trans community."

A friend of Henry's, Jackson Asher, is nonbinary and performs in drag as Candi Mint. Asher told the B.A.R. "she was my baby. She was such a loving person. When she loved, she loved hard."

"When I went through the rock bottom of my addiction, she was there for me," Asher added. "You wanted to be around her energy. Her energy drew you to her."

Asher said they had encouraged Henry in her transition. Asher believes the killing was a hate crime.

"This was a hate crime toward the transgender community," Asher stated`.

SFPD Public Information Officer Robert Rueca stated, "At this time we do not have evidence that this incident is hate related."

According to a news release issued by SFPD spokesperson Allison Maxie, on May 15 at 1:44 p.m., police responded to a residence on the 700 block of Post Street after receiving a report there was a physical altercation between two people.

"When officers arrived, they located an adult victim lying on the ground suffering from multiple stab wounds. Officers rendered aid, including cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR), and summoned paramedics to the scene. Despite life-saving efforts by officers and paramedics, the victim was pronounced deceased at the scene," the release stated.

"While on scene, officers detained a female suspect. Through the course of the investigation, officers developed probable cause to arrest 33-year-old Raymani Yuhashi from San Francisco."

Yuhashi was booked into San Francisco County Jail on the charge of the unlawful killing of a human being with malice aforethought, according to SFPD. However, as of May 21, Yuhashi was not in the county jail's online system to look up who is in custody. Nor was Yuhashi on the San Francisco County Superior Court's online system to look up ongoing cases.

Police did not return a request for comment asking if they consider the killing a hate crime.

David Serrano Sewell, the executive director of the city's Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, told the B.A.R. that the death was classified as a homicide.

"The OCME has certified the manner of death as homicide and cause of the death as 'asphyxia due to neck compression' with a significant contributor of 'multiple sharp force injuries,'" Serrano Sewell stated.

A spokesperson for the San Francisco District Attorney's office told the B.A.R. that "We offer the victim's family and friends our condolences."

"Our Victim Services Division is available to offer support and assistance as they heal and move through this trauma," the spokesperson stated. "Although the San Francisco police made an arrest in this case on May 15, 2024, this remains an active and ongoing investigation. The police had probable cause to make an arrest based on the evidence gathered at the scene; however, to make appropriate charging decisions for criminal prosecution further investigation is required. Once the investigation is complete all of the evidence gathered will be assessed and if we believe that we can meet our burden of proof we will file charges accordingly."

The spokesperson did not answer a follow-up question about if the DA's office considers this a hate crime.

Friends and trans and gender-nonconforming people are invited to participate in grief circles at Trans: Thrive, 1460 Pine Street, from 2 to 4:30 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday this week, the community center stated.

Carlo Gomez Arteaga, the co-executive director of the Transgender District, stated to the B.A.R. that "we are so saddened to hear of the killing of Michelle. She had participated our past events."

Honey Mahogany, a trans person who is the new director of the city's Office of Transgender initiatives, wrote in an email Tuesday that Henry's death was tragic.

"Michelle Henry was a cherished member of our community," Mahogany stated. "Her murder is a reminder to us that, even here in San Francisco, we have to continue fighting for the safety and well-being of all transgender people. Our office will be joining community tonight at Motherbar to honor her memory. We'll be working to ensure the pursuit of justice in this case and that this does not happen again."

The SFPD release stated that "although an arrest has been made, this is an open and active investigation."

Anyone with information is asked to call the SFPD Tip Line at 1-415-575-4444 or Text a Tip to TIP411 and begin the text message with SFPD.

Updated, 5/21/24: This article has been updated with comments from Honey Mahogany.

Updated, 5/21/24: This article was updated with a statement from the DA's office and a statement from Candi Mint.

Updated, 5/21/24: This article was updated with a statement from Pritipaul.

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