A Halifax trans woman is recovering from an attack in which 10 bullets sprayed into her suburban apartment on June 14. Chris Cochrane’s arm was injured in the shooting that she says was motivated by trans phobia.
Two men yelling “tranny faggot” tried to enter the apartment on Evans Ave in Halifax around 1am. When Cochrane and her roommate tried to close the door, she says they shot through the door using a handgun and a shotgun.
“They were 100 percent trying to kill us,” says 25-year-old Cochrane. “You don’t shoot with a shotgun for nothing.”
Cochrane was released from the hospital yesterday with a smartphone-sized wound and 76 stitches in her right arm. She has full range of motion in the limb but is sure to be left with a sizable scar.
Cochrane, who is also known by her drag name Elle Noir, did not recognize her attackers. She described one as wearing a black hoodie and red bandana. Cochrane is certain the attack was a hate crime, but Halifax Regional Police do not agree.
“We are exploring the possibility that there are other motivating factors behind this incident,” Cst Brian Palmeter said June 15. “Certainly, at this point, based on the information that we have, we don’t believe this is a hate crime.”
Palmeter says the attack on Cochrane does not fit the definition of a hate crime in the Criminal Code as a “public incitement of hatred.” He says that while the attack on Cochrane may meet the textbook definition of a hate crime, the police can only enforce the Criminal Code definition.
“[The police] have their version, I have my version,” says Cochrane. “The reason they’re saying it’s not a hate crime is because… they can’t believe something this drastic would be considered a hate crime.”
On June 15, Cochrane was interviewed by police. She says she waited in a freezing room for seven minutes, before police officers asked her the same questions repeatedly.
“It felt more like an interrogation than an actual interview,” says Cochrane.
Palmeter says the victims of serious crimes are always interviewed the same way, to collect video and audio for use in court.
“When we conduct an interview we need to collect as much information as possible,” says the media relations officer. “[It’s] not our intention to cause the victim any discomfort.”
Police have said the attack on Cochrane was targeted but have not disclosed how they reached that conclusion. Given Cochrane’s gritty neighbourhood, some have assumed that the shooting was drug related, a claim Cochrane refutes.
“The only drugs we have in our apartment are estrogen and testerone blockers,” says Cochrane. “If they want to become a woman, fabulous! Come in and get the damn stuff. If they want stuff, [my roommate] has a laptop, I have stilettos.”
Reliving the shooting is difficult for Cochrane’s roommate, who told Xtra his name is Jeff. The 21-year-old was in bed watching a movie with his friend Brendan, when he heard someone banging on the door. Cochrane opened the door to men claiming to be Halifax Regional Police. Seeing a sawed-off shotgun, Cochrane and Jeff struggled to keep them in the hallway.
[Both men ask that their last names be withheld, because they think the attack was an queer-motivated hate crime.]
“I only seen one of the guns; it was a foot from my face,” says Jeff, a native of Prince Edward Island. “That is all I could see, the sparks coming from the gun every time they shot it. It was terrifying. As soon as I seen the gun, I [thought], ‘It’s over.’ I saw my life flash before my face.”
The attackers fled after Cochrane was shot in the arm and fell to the floor convulsing, says Jeff. Brendan, held a towel over Cochrane’s wounded arm as Jeff called 911.
“There was about two litres of blood that ended up on the floor,” says Brendan. “The bullet hit an arterial vein… if the blood didn’t stop [Cochrane] could have died.”
Neither Cochrane nor Jeff say they feel safe in their Fairview-area apartment and have decided to move. The second-floor unit was filled with friends June 16, as they mopped up bloodstains and swept fallen drywall. The door of Cochrane’s bedroom is scarred with bullet holes.
“Seeing my stuff, seeing all me, all over the place is a disturbing thing,” says Cochrane, referring to the bloodstains on the floor.
With her injury, Cochrane can not help with the moving yet directs friends what to keep and what to throw away. Sifting through wigs and drag title crowns, they piled Cochrane’s belongings beside a black pickup truck parked outside.
Cochrane says overwhelming support from the queer community will help her recover from the ordeal. Cochrane has one message for trans people fearing violence.
“Be safe,” she says. “But don’t be afraid to be open. If you go back in the closet and deny yourself and deny your feelings, they’ve won.”