Detroit police seek man, woman in connection to transgender woman's shooting at gas station

Woman shot at Mobil gas station on Detroit's west side

DETROIT – Detroit police are looking for two people wanted in connection to the shooting of a transgender woman at a gas station on the city's west side.

The shooting happened around 8 p.m. Monday at the Mobil gas station at Seven Mile and Greenfield roads. Security video captured a struggle before the woman was shot. Police are searching for the man shown on surveillance video and a woman who they are calling a person of interest. 

Police released a picture of the man they believe had the gun and shot the woman. Officials believe the incident began in the parking lot and spilled inside.

This man is wanted for shooting a transgender woman at a Detroit gas station, police said. (WDIV)

The exchange of words quickly led to a gun being drawn and a scuffle. The woman fought with the man and tried to take the gun away but, moments later, the gun went off, striking the woman, police said.

She is 29 years old and transgender, according to authorities.

"Anytime there's a crime, it's tragic," Detroit Police Chief James Craig said. "Certainly, this community wants to know: Is it a hate crime? What is it?"

Police call woman person of interest

On Wednesday, police said they are also searching for a woman -- Nikita Lee Cowels -- who is considered a person of interest in this shooting. Police released this photo of Cowels: 

Nikita Lee Cowels
Words were exchanged between the man and woman outside the gas station store. (WDIV)

Police aren't sure if the altercation had anything to do with the woman being transgender.

"It's too early to tell, but we'll get more information," Craig said.

Craig was at an LGBT community chat and candlelight vigil Tuesday night at Palmer Park.

Few residents who spoke to Local 4 had heard about the shooting, but they said they wouldn't be surprised if it was a hate crime.

"Especially if it's somewhere in this area, where transgender women are targeted," resident Cierra Burks said. "I'm glad she fought back. I'm glad she's still here."

The woman is expected to be OK.

After the shooting, the man took off in an SUV. You can see a picture of the getaway vehicle below.

Police said the suspected shooter fled the gas station in this vehicle. (WDIV)

The vehicle appears to be a black Ford Explorer, police said.

Anyone who recognizes the man, the woman or the vehicle is asked to call the Detroit Police Department at 313-596-2200.

About the Authors:

Jason anchors Local 4's 5:30 p.m. newscast. He joined WDIV in January 2015 as a general assignment reporter and has a Journalism degree from Michigan State University.

Derick is a Senior Web Producer for ClickOnDetroit and has been with Local 4 News since April 2013. Derick specializes in breaking news, crime and local sports.