NORFOLK, Va. - What started off as a date turned terrifying then violent for 32-year-old Tarena Williams, a transgender beauty queen who was just titled Mrs. Rainbow Cactus 2018.
The violent attack happened at the Ramada Inn on North Military Highway in Norfolk back in July.
“I feel 100% lucky to be alive,” Williams said. “He pulls the gun out and he puts it to my head.”
Williams was moving into her new apartment last summer but was staying at the Ramada Inn on North Military Highway in Norfolk because the apartment was not yet ready.
She says her online date arrived, pulled out a gun and started making sexual demands. He then wanted her purse, and she said that’s when she fought back.
She said the two starting wrestling and she was able to push him out the door to the motel room. Just as she shut the door, she heard a bang.
She said a bullet scattered the window and went into her body - just inches from her heart.
“There was blood everywhere in the hotel. There was blood coming out of the door, down the hallway,” said Williams. "I just kept gasping for breath and saying, 'oh my God, oh my God I was shot.'”
Police arrested Curtis Bell Junior for the alleged attack several days later.
Williams said she has extreme nerve damage in her left arm.
“I can't lift anything. I can't hold anything in my hand. I feel it. I can't tie my shoe,” said Williams.
She said the shooting has left her disabled, but now she wants to speak up about what happened to her and about what has happened to others like her.
“Someone has to stand up for our transgenders, and I am here to stand up,” said Williams. “We are not a joke. We are human. We have mothers. We have fathers. We have siblings. We have careers.”
She believes many crimes against trangender people don’t get reported and being shot has inspired her to take action.
She said she would like to start a transgender center in Hampton Roads based out of Norfolk, which would be a place where people can be safe, get information and resources.
“What had happened to me should be a lesson learned to not only transwomen but women and men. It should be a lesson learned to everyone,” said Williams. “I don't want it happen to anybody else.”
Bell remains locked up in the Norfolk Jail and declined an interview with News 3.
He is facing a whole list of charges for what allegedly happened here and other accusations from other situations.