YOLANDA JENKINS doesn't mince words, especially now, in the throes of devastating grief.
"I want them to find the motherf-----s who killed my son," she told the Daily News last night.
"He didn't deserve this," she said of Stephen Jenkins, a transgender woman gunned down in cold blood near a park in Logan early Tuesday. "He loved all people."
Despite her loss, she swelled with pride at talking about her son, who graduated with honors from Benjamin Franklin High School.
Her son, an amateur tattoo artist who had plans to enroll in art school.
Her son, who always made her laugh, and was always willing to help out around their home in South Philly.
She said she didn't know why her son's life ended so far from home at such an odd hour. But Jenkins' closest friends, the ones who stayed close by as the victim lay mortally wounded, told the People Paper that Jenkins lived two lives.
To his mom, he was Stephen. But to friends, she was known as Kiesha, a face among the crowds of transgender women who work as prostitutes in North Philly.
"She was comfortable with who she was and friends with everyone she met," said Von, who spent most of Monday with Jenkins. "I'm still trying to put together what happened."
Von, a transgender woman, hung out with Jenkins in Frankford that afternoon for a few hours. When Jenkins left, she told Von she'd call later. Von woke up Tuesday morning with the news that one of her closest friends was dead.
"I want people to know that she wasn't afraid to be herself," Von said. "It doesn't matter the situation, a life is a life."
At least five men ambushed Jenkins on Wingohocking Street near 13th just before 3 a.m. after she was dropped off by an unidentified driver, police said. During the scuffle, one of the men shot her twice at point-blank range.
The motive remained unclear last night, but investigators received tips that Jenkins may have been the victim of a robbery turned deadly, according to Homicide Capt. James Clark.
Investigators said it was unclear why Jenkins was in that area. But those who witnessed the savage slaying were outspoken.
"There's no need to lie: I was tricking; she was; we all were," said Amira, a transgender woman who called Jenkins one of her closest friends.
"The area is known for prostitutes; we go out there to get money."
Jenkins had been involved in that lifestyle for about two years, Amira estimated. She met her as Stephen, when she worked in Center City, along 12th Street, she said.
They both had recently relocated to North Philly, favoring the park along Wingohocking Street, near the boulevard. And it was there that she saw Jenkins for the last time.
Amira was about a block away when she saw Jenkins step out of a large, black vehicle, either a Jeep or a van. Then she watched, in horror, as a group of men dressed in dark clothing surrounded Jenkins.
"It all happened so fast; it was too late to warn her," Amira said. She ran toward other girls, screaming for help.
By the time she found a group of her friends, she heard the gunshot. They immediately sprinted toward the source of the gunfire, screaming for Jenkins.
Tay, a transgender woman, found her first.
She was lying on the ground, gasping for air. Tay dialed 9-1-1 and screamed frantically at the dispatcher.
The voice at the other end needed to know where the victim had been shot.
"I tried talking with her, to tell her to be calm, but she didn't respond," Tay said. Desperate, she used a cellphone as a makeshift flashlight, running it across Jenkins' body.
She lifted up Jenkins' shirt and bra, and found a bullet wound near her ribs. Someone handed Tay a shirt, which she balled up into a makeshift tourniquet.
Police and medics arrived moments later and took Jenkins to Einstein Medical Center. Tay, meanwhile, went with detectives to provide a statement.
That's where she learned Jenkins' fate.
"All I could picture was her face looking back at me, and how I couldn't do anything for her," Tay said. "I want the world to know she was a sweetheart, a sweet person that could make you laugh for hours."
About that same time, Jenkins' mother was rising from a deep sleep, roused by a phone call bearing the terrible news.
"I ran to Einstein [Medical Center]," she said. "When I got there and they pulled me into the room, I knew he was gone."
Jenkins' funeral arrangements have been made, her mother said. She declined to share them, asking for privacy.
Meanwhile, Amira is organizing a candlelight vigil for Jenkins at 7 p.m. Friday at the scene of her shooting.
Tipsters with information about the slaying should call 215-686-3334 or -3335.
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