A 24-year-old Black transgender woman was shot in the head and killed in Albany in what a local prosecutor labeled as a likely hate crime.
Serenity Hollis was killed after a person approached her from behind and shot her about 4 a.m. on May 8 in the 700 block of West Highland Avenue. Hollis was gunned down on the same street in the southwest Georgia city where she was attacked and stabbed 22 times in April 2019.
Hollis’ killer jogged away after shooting her once as she walked in the street, according to video of the homicide released by the Albany Police Department. Police were called to the scene of the shooting nearly an hour after it happened. Her killer has not been identified or arrested.
Dougherty County District Attorney Greg Edwards told WALB that Hollis’ killing was likely motivated by her gender identity.
“I cannot go into the specifics of everything about what happened, but it was pretty apparent that was probably a motivation for the death of Mr. [sic] Hollis,” Edwards said.
Albany Police Chief Michael Persley asked for the public’s help in solving the case.
“The biggest thing I can tell you is that we do know people in that area that may have information. We just need for them to come forward. Once you come forward and provide the information that’s needed, then we can get this person off the streets,” Persley told WALB.
A police spokesperson could not be reached Wednesday by Project Q Atlanta.
Hollis, who celebrated her birthday in February, moved from Orlando to Albany in 2019. She started a new job in December at Sanderson Farms, a poultry processing plant in Moultrie, according to a Facebook post.
In April 2019, Hollis was stabbed during an altercation at the House of Jazz on West Highland Avenue, the same block where she was killed this month. In the earlier incident, police found Hollis laying on the porch of the club bleeding a the knife still in her head, according to WALB. A suspect was arrested six days later.
“I still think about this and how God spared me being stabbed 22 times and the knife left in my head I’m so blessed but I forgive him tho,” Hollis wrote in a June 2020 post on Facebook.
Shannen Osberry, one of Hollis’ sisters, told Fox 31 that she was targeted over being transgender.
“I don’t think it’s random. I believe honestly because of the way he carried himself that a lot of people took offense to it,” Osberry said. “So honestly I believe it was either a hate crime or an act of revenge for some reason.”
Robyn Osberry, Hollis’ mother, said the killing marks the second time she’s lost a child.
“I absolutely want to see that justice is served,” Osberry told Fox 31. “This is not just for my son but the safety of mothers everywhere that still have sons, that still have children that are so vulnerable to what’s going on in the world today, the state of affairs. It’s not easy, but I came to do everything that I can do to see that through.”
‘Outbreak of violence must stop’
Hollis is the seventh homicide victim in Albany this year, according to WALB. She is at least the third transgender woman of color killed in Georgia in 2021. Sophie Vasquez, 36, was shot and killed in her metro Atlanta apartment on May 4. Bianca “Muffin” Bankz, a Black trans woman, was murdered inside her apartment in northwest Atlanta on Jan. 17.
Five other trans or gender non-conforming people were killed in Georgia in 2020.
National LGBTQ organizations denounced Hollis’ killing and the violence faced by transgender women across the U.S.
“Serenity finally found the world inviting enough to show her authenticity. We stand in solidarity with the Hollis family and other loved ones who appreciated her existence,” Victoria Kirby York, Deputy Executive Director of the National Black Justice Coalition, said in a prepared statement.
“The loss of another young person in the LGBTQ+/SGL community is extremely disheartening,” York added.
HRC said Hollis’ death is at least the 25th violent death of a transgender or gender non-conforming person in 2021.
“We’re less than halfway through the year, and we’re already on track to break 2020’s devastating record for incidents of fatal violence against transgender and gender non-conforming people,” Tori Cooper, HRC’s community engagement director for the Transgender Justice Initiative, said in a prepared statement.
“This outbreak of violence against transgender people, particularly Black trans women, must stop,” Cooper added.
Anyone with information about Hollis’ death is asked to call the Albany Police Department at 229-431-2100 or Crime Stoppers at 229-436-TIPS.