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Orange County Sheriff's Office seeks information in homicide of transgender woman

Sheriff's Office apologizes for initial description of victim

ORLANDO, Fla. – The Orange County Sheriff's Office is asking for the public's help investigating the homicide of a transgender woman.

Deputies responded to the 1600 block of Holden Avenue about 5 a.m. Thursday regarding the discovery of a person who was dead from traumatic injuries.

Officials said the investigation revealed Sasha Garden was the victim of a homicide.

A vigil was held Saturday night for Sasha Garden at Lake Eola Park.

Garden's death is the fourth known murder of a transgender woman of color in Florida this year, according to the group Equality Florida.

"This is not OK that they're getting killed," Christina Dance, one of the attendees to the vigil, said.

"She's not from Orlando; Her family is not here, so we are her family," another attendee, Dr. Stephany Mahaffey, said.

The vigil was also a chance to help educate the community after the Orange County Sheriff's Office received backlash over the way they first described Sasha Garden.

"To describe someone as how they originally described Sasha, as a man in a wig, nobody should be described like that," vigil organizer Sister Koochie Koo said.

On Saturday, the Orange County Sheriff's Office also released a statement from Sheriff Jerry Demings regarding the homicide's investigation and the agency's communication response.

Below is Demings' statement released Saturday in its entirety:

"At 5:00 a.m. on July 18th deputies responded to the call of a severely injured individual at 1633 Holden Avenue and a brief time later, the victim was pronounced deceased. In an effort to expedite information to the public via the local media and identify the victim, some of the information disseminated in a press release may have offended members of the LGBTQ community.

"In the early stages of this homicide investigation, the OCSO released details regarding the legal name of the victim as required by state statute, along with other details that might assist detectives in solving this heinous crime. At that time the Orange County Sheriff's Office did not know the individual was transgender and had only one goal in mind, finding and apprehending a suspect.

"Once OCSO detectives identified the victim and public information officers were made aware by family and friends that the victim was transgender, they immediately transitioned to referring to the victim by the appropriate gender and recognized name, Sasha. The Orange County Sheriff's Office did not intend to be insensitive in this effort and I along with agency members apologize for any misgivings our communications may have caused.

"As Sheriff, I am proud to report that the Orange County Sheriff's Office continues to have a positive relationship and open dialogue with members of the LGBTQ community, and we will seek additional measures to further strengthen that bond in the days ahead.

"We are committed to finding the suspect in Sasha's murder and ask that anyone having relevant information to come forward."

Anyone with information about the homicide is asked to call Crimeline at 800-423-TIPS (8477). Officials said tipsters may be eligible for a reward of up to $5,000 if the information leads to an arrest.


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