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By Brooke Sopelsa

The death of Skye Mockabee in Cleveland, Ohio, this past weekend may be the latest in a string of homicides of transgender people in the U.S.

“This is tragic, and it is unacceptable,” Shelby Chestnut of the New York City Anti-Violence Project stated. “Skye is the third Black transgender woman that we know of who was killed in July 2016 alone, and so far this year, 16 transgender and gender-nonconforming people that we know of have been killed.”

Mockabee, 26, was found dead Saturday morning in a parking lot, and her family told Cleveland.com they believe she was killed because of her gender identity.

While the NYC Anti-Violence Project estimates Mockabee’s death is the 16th homicide of a transgender or gender-nonconforming person this year, other estimates are even higher.

However, Sergeant Jennifer Ciaccia of the Cleveland Police Department told NBC OUT Mockabee’s death “hasn’t been determined to be a homicide yet.” While homicide detectives are investigating the case, Ciaccia said it’s currently filed under “dead body, suspected violence,” and she added there’s currently no suspect.

The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, which is part of the NYC Anti-Violence Project, received reports of 24 hate violence-related homicides of LGBTQ and HIV-affected people in 2015, up 20 percent from 2014. Sixteen of the 24 people killed last year, according to the report, were transgender or gender-nonconforming.

“I don’t know whether the violence is increasing or we’re just getting better at reporting it,” Cherno Biko, a transgender activist, told NBC OUT.

Biko noted most of the trans people killed are black women, like Skye Mockabee, and said this issue should be part of the Black Lives Matter conversation.

“I think it starts by loving black trans folks,” Biko added. “Unfortunately it’s too late for Skye and for the 17 other folks who have been murdered this year. Luckily, it’s not too late for me and the thousands and potentially millions of us that are left. We need love, we need freedom, we need protection.”

In the midst of tragedy, Biko said she has managed to find strength.

“Thankfully I’m not numb, and I still feel. I still cry. My heart still breaks, even though we get new word of a victim every other week,” she said. “I can’t say that I’m surprised, and I’m getting scared, but also it’s just time to fight back.”

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