Rash of Transgender Murders in August Shock the Community
Only twelve days into August, 2002, and it is becoming one of the deadliest months on record for Transgender murders. According to the First Coast News station in Jacksonville, FL, on the morning of August 8, a man walking his dog along Spring Grove Road at the Northside found 28-year-old Deasha (Gerald) Andrews slumped over in her car. She had been shot more than once and apparently died on the spot.
According to Rusty Mead, the GLBT Community Lieason for the Jacksonville Sheriffs Office, this is not being investigated as a hate crime. Based on information that Mead has been given by the JSO, some of which she could not reveal, there is nothing that suggests a hate crime had been committed. Part of the reason that leads police to believe this is that Andrews had been found in a very violent part of town, an area that has had several murders in the past. Andrews has been known to frequent this area regularly.
The Jacksonville Sheriffs Office have also ruled that the Andrews murder is not related the murder of Terrianne Summers, a Transgender activist who was shot in Jacksonville on December 12, 2001. The only similarities are that both victims were Transgender, and both were shot. Mead informed us that the lead detective for the Andrews murder is the partner of the lead detective for the Summers murder. Both detectives had made a conscientious effort to show respect to the victims by ensuring that they refer to them with proper pronouns.
On August 12, 2002, violence struck again when two Transgender youths, Ukea (Deon) Davis, 18, and Stephanie (Wilbur) Thomas, 19, were found in the front seat of Thomas's Toyota Camry about 3:25 a.m. at 50th and C streets SE. According to the DC Police, both victims died at the scene from multiple gunshot wounds.
According to Earline Budd, a Transgender activist in the DC Area, witnesses say a car drove up beside the two youths, and a gunman fired shots from an automatic weapon. The gunfire killed Davis and critically wounded Thomas.
Another car drove up after the shooting, and an unidentified man got out and walked up to the driver's side of Thomas' car. The man pushed Thomas' shoulder to see if she was still alive. Thomas moaned in pain, but the man fled upon hearing the first car return. The gunman then got out of the first car and fired additional shots into Thomas' car, killing her.
According to Budd, firefighters from Engine Company 30, the infamous "Dirty Thirty" involved in the Tyra Hunter tragedy, responded to the scene - which ironically, was just one block from the intersection where Tyra Hunter was critically injured seven years ago. Adding insult to injury, the dead women were dragged out of Thomas' bullet-riddled car, and Thomas' body was dropped face first on the ground. Later a firefighter pushed Thomas' body over with his foot, as blood poured from her head and neck wounds, according to an eyewitness.
The firefighters were apparently afraid to touch the victims.
In honor of the slain teens' memory, the National Transgender Advocacy Coalition has begun a fund to be given to the Transgender Health Empowerment Center (THE) in Washington DC. Both victims participated in THE, and the money collected will help the organization provide a memorial service so that friends of the teens can grieve their loss
Yoseio Lewis, outgoing Board Chair of NTAC, had previously met one of the victims of the DC shooting. "It is vitally important that we never forget that we are the village, these were OUR children," said an emotional Lewis after the NTAC board meeting. "We have a responsibility to them in death just as significant and meaningful as we did in life."
The statistics are staggering. Whether as hate crimes or other violence, murders of Transgender people are on the rise. This year alone, fifteen murders have been reported, approaching two per month. The Remember Our Dead list is now up to 242 names, with 199 of them being domestic cases and 43 being international.
With the two new victims bring the Washington, DC, total to seven, placing it in a tie with San Diego as the fourth deadliest city in the country.
When the District of Columbia is placed in the context with the various states in the US, it ranks seventh, tied with Illinois and Massachusetts. With the new murder in Jacksonville, Florida's total has risen to ten, and it is no longer sharing fifth place with Tennessee. The national Transgender Day of Remembrance is scheduled to take place on November 20, 2002.
For more information on Day of Remembrance Activities near you or for information on organizing your own event, contact www.gender.org/remember or Gwendolyn Smith at
NTAC, the National Transgender Advocacy Coalition, is a 501(c)(4) civil rights organization working to establish and maintain the right of all transgendered, intersexed, and gender-variant people to live and work without fear of violence or discrimination.