The family of a 24-year-old Black woman who was fatally shot by a stranger during an encounter at a gas station in Cedar Park, Texas, claim she was killed because she was gay. According to the Austin American-Statesman, the June 2 incident occurred while the victim, Akira Ross, was in the company of her partner and another friend.
The victim’s father, Anthony Hill, alleged that the suspect, Bradley Stanford, hurled gay slurs at her daughter before he fatally shot her outside the gas station. Stanford has since been arrested and charged in connection with Ross’ killing.
“It was a hate crime,” Hill claimed, adding that his daughter did not know Stanford. “She gets out of the car, and he starts calling her gay slurs for no reason,” Hill said. Though Cedar Park police said that a stranger killed Ross, they said they were unable to conclude if her murder was a hate crime.
In an interview with the news outlet, the deceased victim’s partner, Tanya, said she had been staying with Ross for some years, adding that the three of them drove to the gas station after a workout session. Howeverbeforeto entering the gas station’s convenience store with Ross, Tanya said Stanford called Ross gay slurs. She also said their friend remained in the car while they made their way into the store.
While inside, Tanya said their friend notified her via text that Stanford was outside brandishing a gun. According to her, Ross later exited the store to pump gas after she told the store clerk to call 911, the Austin American-Statesman reported. The deceased victim’s partner also said that Stanford asked Ross for a handshake after he approached her, adding that she decided to use her phone to film the incident to help the police locate Stanford, as he was armed.
“I was recording everything I saw before my own eyes and then I heard gunshots,” she recalled. Tanya said she did not capture the moment Ross was shot because she was “running and screaming” to the scene.
Stanford was tracked down and arrested on June 4 after detectives received a tip about the suspect leaving town. “Losing a daughter is like swallowing a razor blade,” Hill said. “Nobody wants to deal with that kind of pain.”
Hill also said everybody loved his daughter. “She loved bringing joy to other people,” he said. “She wanted to be a hip-hop musician, and she was writing her own lyrics.”
Police said Stanford faces a first-degree murder charge. Meanwhile, a GoFundMe has been set up to help raise funds for Ross’ family. “Akiara was the victim of a shooting in Cedar Park for the sole reason of being queer,” the fundraiser states.
“I’m asking for the community and allies to come together in order to support the loss of our LGBTQIA+ sibling. This loss comes so quickly into the beginning of our month where most can feel at liberty to be free and to be their selves.”