The weekend fatal shooting of a teen at an apartment complex near downtown Athens was the culmination of a feud between two transgender groups, Athens-Clarke County police confirmed Wednesday.
Ava Le’Ray Barrin, was killed Sunday morning by a single gunshot fired by 21-year-old Jalen Breon Brown in the parking lot of Riverview Apartments on College Avenue, police said.
Neither lived in the complex and both were there to visit friends who did live there when the deadly confrontation occurred, said Capt. Jerry Saulters, commanding officer of the Athens-Clarke County police Criminal Investigations Division.
The initial argument that started the feud was not even between Brown and Barrin, Saulters said.
“It started out as an argument between friends of the suspect and victim,” Saulters said.
Barrin and two friends were in the parking lot of Riverview Apartments at about 11:45 a.m. when they crossed paths with Brown, the police captain said.
Brown was on the second floor of one of the apartment buildings and the victim was in the parking lot when they reportedly began to argue. Saulters said Brown fired a “warning” shot in the direction of the victim, before he went down to the parking lot where he and Barrin began fighting.
During the altercation, Brown shot the victim in the side of the chest, police said.
Barrin was not breathing when police arrived, and was pronounced dead after being taken by ambulance to the hospital.
Brown, who was located by police at the complex, claimed he shot Barrin in self-defense, a motive that police discounted.
“It did not hold up because he fired towards the victim prior to the fight, and a fight does not constitute deadly force,” Saulters said.
Brown was arrested and charged with murder and aggravated assault. He was being held without bail at the Clarke County Jail.
Several transgender organizations issued statements concerning the fatal shooting, including Black Transwomen Inc.
“What saddens and infuriates us as an organization that seeks to represent and empower black trans women is that Ava was just 17 years old and hadn’t even had a chance to follow her dreams yet,” the statement said. “Ava has become not only the 14th trans woman murdered in the U.S. in 2017, she unfortunately is now the youngest one killed this year. She is also the 12th African American trans person killed this year.”