“Dustin will be missed, but never forgotten.”

Dustin Parker has become the first transgender person to be murdered this year in the United States.

The 25-year-old trans man, who worked as a taxi driver, was fatally shot early on New Year’s Day in McAlester, Oklahoma and was found in the driver’s seat at around 6.30am. It has been reported that several gunshots had been fired at the taxi.

Dustin was a founding member of the McAlester chapter of Oklahomans for Equality, an LGBTQ rights group, and leaves behind four children and a wife called Regina.

“Rover Taxi is devastated at the loss of a member of our Rover family,” said Dustin’s employer Brian West, who has organised a Facebook fundraiser to help his family. “Dustin was a steadfast friend, an amazing husband and father, and generous to a fault.

“He loved fiercely, worked tirelessly, and took on life with so much hope and enthusiasm that his presence brightened all of our lives. His bright, young life was taken far too early. Please keep his loved ones in your thoughts as we all try to pull together to get through these difficult times. Dustin will be missed, but never forgotten.”

Hannah Parker, a volunteer with Oklahomans for Equality, said her heart goes out to “his wife, to his four children, to his friends, to his fellow members of Oklahomans for Equality, and to every trans, nonbinary, gender-nonconforming child and adult in this state who heard this news and felt a little less safe.

“Dustin Parker got to see the start of this decade, but he should have gotten to see a lot more.”

Capt. Kevin Hearod of the McAlester Police Department said his investigators are “out running down leads” and doesn’t believe his murder was motivated by his gender identity, saying: “We don’t have anything indicating that right now.”

Related: New Jersey is now incredibly close to banning the ‘gay and trans panic’ defence.