The Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund (TLDEF) is urging the Syracuse (New York) Police Department and Onondaga County District Attorney’s Office to investigate the likely hate crime motivation in the murder of Lateisha Green, a 22-year-old African American transgender woman.
On the evening of November 14, Green and her brother, Mark Cannon, were sitting in a car preparing to leave a party when they were shot with a .22 caliber rifle. A single bullet grazed Cannon’s arm and then penetrated Green’s chest, severing her aorta.
According to Chief of Police Gary Miguel, the murder suspect, 20-year-old Dwight DeLee, retrieved the .22 caliber rifle when he heard other people at the party “making profane and vulgar comments in regards to the sexual preference” of Green and her brother. “Our suspect took a rifle and shot and killed this person, also wounding his brother, for the sole reason he didn’t care for the sexual preference of our victim,” says Miguel.
“Transgender people face discrimination and violence in communities across the country,” says TLDEF executive director Michael Silverman. “Lateisha’s senseless death demonstrates the increased risk of violence transgender people face.”
Gary Miguel adds, “Isn’t that sad? Isn’t that a sad situation that that’s the sole reason why?”
One day before the Transgender Day of Remembrance, a new NCAVP press release warns about a nationwide increase in severe violence perpetrated against transgender persons.
New York – As the Transgender Day of Remembrance approaches, a day when victims of anti-transgender bias are mourned around the globe, the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP) has documented increases in severe violence directed at transgender communities across the country, especially against transgender women of color.
- Latiesha Green, 22, was shot on November 14 in Syracuse, New York.
- Duanna Johnson, 43, was shot in Memphis, Tennessee, on November 8.
- Aimee Wilcoxson, 34, was found dead in her apartment on November 3 in Aurora, Colorado, just outside of Denver.
Some of these brutal acts of violence occurred in the same communities that continue to mourn the murders of two transgender people of color earlier this year: Ebony Whitaker, 20, murdered in June also in Tennessee and Angie Zapata, 18, murdered in July also in Colorado.
Organizations such as International Transgender Day of Remembrance and Remembering Our Dead that have helped to initiate Transgender Day of Remembrance (held this year on November 20) also track anti-trans murders. They documented 29 anti-trans murders in 2008, a 65% increase over 2007.
NCAVP wishes to express our sadness and outrage about this ongoing, horrific violence. We stand in solidarity with transgender communities in Tennessee, Syracuse, and Colorado, the victims and survivors, and their loved ones.
Mixed Criminal / Legal System Responses
Ms. Johnson’s murder comes on the heels of Memphis Police Department’s brutal beating of Ms. Johnson in February 2008. The following Police security camera footage of the beating has been widely circulated since June (warning: clip contains disturbing material):
The Memphis Police Department had been attempting to settle a law suit that Ms. Johnson had filed for the beating she endured while in custody. Former officers Bridges McRae and James Swain were fired only after the video was released, but it is not yet clear whether or not any criminal charges will be filed.
Local community members have speculated that anti-trans bias is likely a factor, not only in the beating itself but in the lack of criminal charges being filed. “This is not the first time the Shelby County District Attorney’s office has shown indifference to brutality against transgender people,” observed Dr. Marisa Richmond, the President of Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition. “When Tiffany Berry was murdered in 2006, her alleged perpetrator, D’Andre Blake, was released on only $20,000 bond.” Dr. Richmond noted that people charged with murder in Tennessee typically get a $100,000 bond.
The FBI is now assisting in the investigation of Ms. Johnson’s murder. NCAVP calls upon the FBI to bring its full resources to in the investigation of not only Ms. Johnson’s murder but also Ms. Ebony Whitaker’s. NCAVP also demands that District Attorney Gibbons bring appropriate charges against former officers McRae and Swain.
In Colorado, the Aurora Sentinel reported that local police have speculated that Ms. Wilcoxson’s death was a suicide. But friends of hers insist that explanation is very unlikely given her life circumstances and also given the condition the body was in when it was discovered. NCAVP is hopeful that local police will conduct a thorough investigation that takes into account these statements from people who knew her.
In Syracuse, Sage Upstate and other local community members report that Syracuse City Police Department Chief Gary Miguel has responded to this crime with sensitivity. The family of Latiesha ‘Tiesh’ Green and LGBT advocates in the Syracuse community are hopeful that the Onondaga County District Attorney’s office will be able to include hate crime charges in the prosecution of this case.
NCAVP commends district attorneys and police who identify and appropriately categorize hate-motivated violence. We are hopeful that district attorneys and law enforcement in other jurisdictions will follow suit and NCAVP will continue to monitor the violence against transgender communities, as well as the police response.
Transgender and gender non-conforming people experience violence and harassment everyday and most of it never makes headlines. NCAVP encourages LGBT people experiencing any form of hate violence, harassment, vandalism, or bullying to contact NCAVP or one of our member programs by calling 212.714.1184 or emailing us at email@example.com.
According to a September article published in the Dallas Voice, gay man Richard Hernandez was murdered in his Dallas apartment and then dismembered in the bathtub. After Hernandez failed to appear at his job, worried co-workers called the police. The police went to Hernandez’s apartment to investigate, and found large amounts of blood in the living room and tissue from the victim’s internal organs in the bathtub.
Purchases made on Hernandez’s credit card led police to a suspect, Seth Lawton Winder, who was then charged with credit card fraud and capital murder. Seth’s father, Robert Winder, has pointed to his son’s schizophrenic history as a possible explanation for the crime, but police have also recovered a digital camera containing images of the suspect inside the victim’s apartment which might suggest a different theory about why the murder occurred.
Friends of the victim say Hernandez was a valued friend. “Rich was probably one of the most sincere, sweet people you will ever meet,” says one friend. “Rich always had a smile and would drop anything to help anybody, and it’s very, very sad what happened to him. It’s a very gruesome, horrible thing to happen to someone so sweet and so generous.”
Richard Hernandez was 38-years-old.
An EDGE Boston article tells the story of Melvin Whistlehunt, whose house was burned down as part of an anti-LGBT hate crime.
On November 7, Whistlehunt received an urgent call at work warning him his house was burning. When firefighters arrived, they discovered signs of arson and an anti-gay slogan spray-painted on the brick of the home. The conflagration reached such severity that 28 firefighters and seven trucks were needed to bring the fire into control.
None of Whistlehunt’s property survived the blaze.
Additional information is available in this article at the Observer News Enterprise of Newton, North Carolina.