As is now well known, our communities suffered more violence over the weekend. Most recently, we were alerted by the Metropolitan Police Department at about 3:15am Monday morning of a trans woman who was non-fatally shot on the 2300 block of Savannah Street SE and had been transported to a local hospital. The victim had met up with her assailant, whom she had known previously, and they got into an argument in his truck, at which point he fired a shot at her, which grazed her neck. The victim was able to walk into 7th District police headquarters to seek assistance. Yesterday, MPD arrested the assailant, Darryl Willard, and he was charged with Assault with Intent to Kill While Armed. We will keep you posted as this case moves through the courts.
Earlier in the weekend, at around 6:10am Saturday morning, we were informed by MPD that a body had been discovered at 11th & Fairmont Streets NW in Columbia Heights. According to MPD, the deceased person was believed to be a Latina trans woman. DCTC members arrived at the crime scene within an hour, and received an update from MPD’s Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit. Throughout Saturday morning and again later that evening, several Latina trans community members made phone calls and went door to door in Columbia Heights checking on friends and acquaintances and trying to track down anyone who could not be reached. Around 9:00am on Sunday, DCTC member Ruby Corado was presented with a photo of the deceased by MPD homicide detectives, but was unable to make an identification. The case is being investigated as a suspicious death, and the DC medical examiner has been unable to determine a cause of death.
On Monday afternoon, MPD Assistant Chief Peter Newsham held a press conference focused on these two cases, and released a photo of Saturday’s victim taken by the medical examiner. Throughout the press conference, Newsham persistently referred to the deceased as “he” and “a possible transgender male” and used phrases like “he was wearing make-up” and “feminine clothing.” While it is likely impossible for anyone to ever know the victim’s true gender identity, it is important to note that DC’s Human Rights Act, which is supported by MPD’s general order on handling trans people (general order 501.02), also mandates respect for a person’s gender expression. Given the many unknowns surrounding the victim’s death and identity, Newsham — like all officers — should have chosen gender neutral pronouns and should understand the difference between a trans man and a trans woman. We believe that Newsham’s reckless language represents a violation of MPD’s General Order 501.02 and its mandate to be respectful of gender identity and expression, and we will be raising that with both MPD and the Mayor’s office.
Within a day after the autopsy photo’s release, a member of DC’s South Asian LGBT community came forward and identified the victim, who is of Nepalese descent. As noted above, MPD’s initial belief was that the person was possibly Latino, which on Monday was expanded to also include possibly of Middle Eastern descent. This raises obvious questions about assigning a racial identity based solely on appearance. Further, the improperly assigned race in this case almost certainly contributed to the four-day delay in identifying the victim, and definitely caused intense fear within the Latina trans community. We understand that members of KhushDC have expressed that they will be planning a remembrance for the victim, we will keep you posted on details as they become available.
We also want to acknowledge statements made to the media by DC Mayor Vince Gray and DC Council Chairman Kwame Brown expressing their concern over the extreme violence our communities have faced this year. We look forward to working with them to take concrete action to prevent such violence inthe future.