ATLANTA (AP) — Koko Da Doll, an Atlanta woman who gained notice in a documentary about transgender Black women and the dangers they face, was shot to death in Atlanta this week, her sister said.
Kilya Williams and other relatives said police told them the 35-year-old transgender woman, also known as Rasheeda Williams, appears to have been shot Wednesday after leaving an apartment complex west of downtown Atlanta. Her body was found on a sidewalk adjoining a strip mall across a busy street.
Atlanta police on Friday released surveillance video of a person in a sports jersey walking up to the entrance of an apartment building. Authorities said detectives wanted to identify the person “to assist with the current investigation on the homicide.”
Koko had gained notice earlier this year when she and others appeared in the documentary “Kokomo City,” describing her life as a transgender woman, her interactions with Black men as a sex worker, and the threats of violence she sometimes faced.
“I feel like she wanted to get her story out,” Williams said. “She’s not ashamed of who she was. Because if she was ashamed of it, she would have never did the documentary. She was proud of who she was because she came from a loving, accepting family.”
“Kokomo City” director D. Smith wrote in a statement on Instagram that she wanted to make a movie “to show the fun, humanized, natural side of Black trans women” and not focus on “trauma or the statistics of murder of transgender lives.”
“But here we are again, Smith wrote. ”It’s extremely difficult to process Koko’s passing, but as a team we are more encouraged now than ever to inspire the world with her story, to show how beautiful and full of life she was.”
Relatives said Koko had been jubilant about the movie.
“That’s all she would talk about,” Williams said. “She just wanted to change her life around and help people.”
“Kokomo City” won a NEXT Innovator Award and an audience award at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival and also won an award at the 2023 Berlin Film Festival. It’s scheduled to be presented Saturday at the Atlanta Film Festival and Magnolia Pictures plans to release the film widely later this year.
“I will be the reason there’s more opportunities and doors opening for transgender girls,” Koko wrote on her Instagram account in January during the Sundance festival in Utah.
“Thank you so much. What you’ve done here for me is going to save a lot of lives,” Koko wrote.
Fellow cast members reacted with shock to her death.
“My sister you are gone but you will NEVER be forgotten! I am struggling right now to grasp the fact that we just spoke and now you aren’t here by my side!,” wrote Dominque Silver on Instagram. “WE WILL GET JUSTICE FOR YOU AND PLEASE PROTECT BLACK TRANS WOMEN AT ALL COST!”
Atlanta police said Friday that they are investigating whether Koko’s shooting as well as the deaths earlier this year of two other transgender women should be classified as hate crimes.
“We understand the impact violence has on all our communities and we understand some acts of violence bring about legitimate concerns of whether the incident was motivated by hate.”
The Human Rights Campaign, an LGBTQ rights group, tracked at least 38 transgender people nationwide who were killed in 2022.