She bolted the door as soon as she got home, drew the blinds and tried to breathe.
Emmelia Talarico, 30, told her housemates she had been attacked at a nearby grocery store in Northeast Washington by a group that slung homophobic slurs and pushed her as she walked past. Then, about 45 minutes after she arrived home Tuesday, she heard a noise outside: the clang of a rock hitting metal, quickly followed by another sharp thud.
Talarico ran to the window, where she saw one of the same men from the store pacing up and down the porch.
When he saw her, she said, he lifted his arms like he was lifting something to his side. Then, she said, he made a pumping motion — the kind one might see when a person is loading a shotgun.
Panicked, several of Talarico’s housemates ran to the basement, she said. One woman called 911.
D.C. police are investigating the incident — the third in less than a week that has violently targeted members of Washington’s transgender community — as a “possible hate crime.” No arrests have been made. It’s part of a series of recent attacks in the region that has many in the LGBT community on edge.
“A lot of us are feeling like we can’t even walk to the store safely right now,” said Talarico, a transgender woman and lead organizer with activist LGBTQ group No Justice No Pride. “Everyone’s on high alert.”
Talarico lives in a house in the District’s Eckington neighborhood with several other transgender women of color.
Known as the NJNP Collective, the house is a haven for some of the city’s most marginalized residents. Some were kicked out of their homes because of their gender identity, sexual orientation or both. Others struggle to find steady employment.
Seven transgender women live in the house, although others cycle through for a night or two during emergencies.
There’s no sign advertising its presence but, Talarico said, everyone in the neighborhood knows where they live.
“We mostly walk around in groups because, even when things like this aren’t happening, it’s not safe,” Talarico said. “Everyone knows that’s where all the trans girls live, and people see all of us every single day in that neighborhood.”
The NJNP Collective is asking residents to take Lyft and Uber rides everywhere they go. The apps allow residents fearful of being followed to vary their routes and routines — and they enable organizers to track their coming and goings.
It’s one of several changes organizers have made to prioritize the safety of those who live in the house, Talarico said.
On Saturday, police responded to another LGBTQ outreach center in Northwest Washington when a man demanded a sex act and threatened three transgender women with a gun outside Casa Ruby.
Last week, a black transgender woman named Zoe Spears was found dead in the street, gunned down in Fairmount Heights, Md., across from the District. Months earlier, Spears watched as her friend, Ashanti Carmon, also a transgender woman, was killed blocks away.
“I knew Zoe personally,” Talarico said. “I didn’t know her as well as a lot of other folks did. But news like that, it just hits you in a really hard place. It’s been hitting everyone in the house really hard.”
When Talarico walked into the store about 9:30 p.m. Tuesday, she said, she already felt exhausted by a recent spate of violence against LGBTQ people: the threat at Casa Ruby, Spears’s death, a gun scare at the Capital Pride parade that sent hundreds running in fear, a Sunday stabbing inside a gay bar in Dupont Circle and the assault of a gay couple leaving a bar Sunday morning on U Street.
As she ducked under the arm of a woman standing in the store’s doorway, Talarico said, she heard the woman say, “Okay, bro,” as the woman put her hands on Talarico’s shoulders and pushed.
“I was still exhausted, still kind of going through it, and I really didn’t want to deal with this,” Talarico said. “So, I just looked at her and said, ‘I’m not a bro. Don’t put your hands on me, please.’ ”
According to a police report, the woman began to yell and two men with her soon joined in, shouting threats of violence and homophobic slurs.
The store owner, Talarico said, told them to leave. As Talarico exited and began to walk home, she said, the group approached her again.
“I ran back to the store, and the store owner was already standing outside, waving me back in,” she said. “He gave me a ride home. But then 45 minutes later, they were back.”
When she saw the man from the store standing on her porch, Talarico said, she assumed he had a gun from the way he held his hands.
Later, she saw a dent in the window frame of the house, and a rock nearby.
Nationally, at least 10 transgender women have been killed this year, according to organizations that track such slayings. In 2018, there were 26. Most of them were black.
In 2017, the number of transgender homicide victims nationwide hit a record: 29.
The number of killings has garnered attention from activist groups, public health organizations and several presidential candidates.
“The murder of Black trans women is a crisis,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) tweeted Saturday, listing the names of the 10 most recent victims. “We’ll fight this, and we will continue to say their names.”
“There’s a crisis of black trans women being targeted and murdered across the U.S.,” tweeted Democratic presidential candidate Julián Castro. “We need to act to protect and support trans women from violence — and we need to do it now.”
For activists like Talarico, the threat is more immediate — and personal.
“It’s definitely made me more worried, not just for myself but for all the girls in the house,” she said. “I was having a really hard time walking around in crowds yesterday. It’s hard to be around people right now who I don’t know, who don’t make me feel safe.”