After a Sudden Death in Portland, Friends Remember Gigi Eugene-Pierce for Her Vivacious Spirit

Last week, she became the 11th transgender person violently killed in the U.S. this year.

(Courtesy of Jason Johnson)

The shooting death of Gigi Eugene-Pierce in downtown Portland on May 21 has left a pall across the city's LGBTQ community.

Eugene-Pierce, 28, was a transgender woman, and advocates say her death was the 11th violent killing of a transgender person in the U.S. this year.

But her friends hope she will be remembered as more than just a number.

They recall her as vivacious and enthusiastic. But they also say she struggled with drug abuse and homelessness, living a difficult life that came to a sudden end last week.

"I don't know what demons she was trying to run away from, but she spent her entire life running," says her close friend and former boyfriend Jason Johnson, who knew Eugene-Pierce for more than a decade. "And it was a beautiful run filled with glitter and cocktails."

Eugene-Pierce grew up in Boise, Idaho. Her sister, Nicole Emery, says Eugene-Pierce "treated my sister [Meghann] and I like princesses" and "never stood still."

Eugene-Pierce moved to Spokane in 2014 and to Portland about two years ago.

She had begun the transition to become a woman last July, friends said.

(Courtesy of Jason Johnson)

Johnson and Eugene-Pierce met when she was living in Boise. At the time, Eugene-Pierce performed as a drag queen named Jeliza Rose. In Spokane, Johnson hired Eugene-Pierce as the first go-go dancer in a troupe that entertained at a local bar.

"Gigi was a performer through and through," her friend Dallas Jackson Falls said in a statement last week. "Life was her stage, and those fortunate enough to know her were her audience. Granted, you never knew whether you were getting a drama, comedy or even, in some moments, an action-filled tragedy. That was the thing about her, you just never knew what you were going to get."

Johnson says she started abusing drugs in Spokane. She moved to Portland in hopes of getting clean. But she texted Johnson in recent months, telling him she was living on the streets, selling drugs and using again.

(Courtesy of Jason Johnson)

On May 21, a woman named Sophia Adler allegedly shot and killed Eugene-Pierce in downtown Portland. A witness named Amber told KATU-TV the two women got into a confrontation after Eugene-Pierce told Adler not to touch her. Adler hit Eugene-Pierce in the face with her purse, and when Eugene-Pierce pulled back as if she was going to throw a punch, Adler shot her. She now faces a murder charge.

Eugene-Pierce's death shook Portland's LGBTQ community. The Q Center held a vigil for her last weekend. Friends say she should be remembered for more than how she died.

"Gigi was an individual with love and compassion and tragedy," Johnson says. "People need to know there was a bright and beautiful person and also a dark and dangerous one. A lot of us loved both of those sides."

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