22-year-old Claire Wolfever, a trans woman from Sharon, Pennsylvania, was arraigned Friday on charges related to opening fire on a coworker at the Walmart in Hermitage, Pennsylvania. Claire is charged with two counts of attempted murder and aggravated assault, theft, having a firearm without a license and reckless endangerment related to the shooting incident Thursday night.
Jayson Hall suffered four gunshot wounds and was flown to a Youngstown hospital where he is in stable condition and expected to live. According to statements Claire gave to the police, Hall had taken offense when she disclosed her gender identity to her coworkers and began threatening and harassing her.
A formal complaint was filed with Walmart and an investigation launched. It is unclear how long the threatening behavior continued before Claire took matters into her own hands by stealing her grandfather’s pistol and confronting Hall in the Walmart store.
No one else was injured.
After the shooting, Claire sat in her vehicle in the parking lot and surrendered to police.
I became aware of this story during the evening news and was horrified both by the situation and the fact that KDKA, the CBS Pittsburgh outlet, did a hatchet job on gender identity. I began scrutinizing other coverage and found the usual array of misinformation, inaccuracy and misgendering. Not a single outlet, not from Pittsburgh or Youngstown or Erie or beyond, did even a decent job.
It took me 45 minutes to find someone who knew Claire, get her real name and learn more about her backstory. If local media outlets took the time to build contacts with the local and regional LGBTQ community, it would probably have taken them less time. GLAAD has a brand spanking new edition of their media guide that can be accessed online, anytime, by reporters in this region who want to be fair, accurate and balanced.
There are other LGBTQ employees at Walmart stores throughout Western Pennsylvania and I am sure they are scared out of their minds about the consequences for them. Those outside of Erie and Allegheny counties have zero protections in their workplaces. If you are one of those people and you need support, I urge you to reach out to a community group that can help you navigate coming out at work. These include:
I realize most of these groups are located in more urban communities, but the are online and can work with you.
Obviously, I don’t know why Claire made this terrible decision. I find it troubling that she sat in the parking lot waiting for the police which reminds me of how a trauma survivor responds rather than your typical person who acted in haste. As I read through comments on social media from her high school classmates and neighbors, it sounds like she had it really rough.
None of that makes it okay for her to shoot another person, but it should make us rethink how we are building a region that respects and supports our trans neighbors. The media coverage alone shows how much work we have to do.
For updates on this story, please visit Pittsburgh Lesbian Correspondents