‘Epidemic': 5 more black transgender women found dead in past month alone, activists say

Five Black transgender women found dead in past month, activists say

Brayla Stone. Merci Mack. Shaki Peters. Draya McCarty. Bree Black.

A total of five Black transgender women have been found dead in four states in the past month, bringing the death toll to at least seven since the beginning of June, which is celebrated as LGBTQ Pride Month in the U.S.

The Human Rights Campaign reports that there have been at least 21 transgender or nonbinary people killed in the U.S. in 2020, including Summer Taylor, a Black Lives Matter protester who was struck and killed by a driver July 4 during a demonstration in Seattle.

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Taylor, who was nonbinary, was white. The majority of LGBTQ people killed are Black women.

The American Medical Association last year declared violence against the transgender community an epidemic.

“We’re witnessing an epidemic of horrific violence against our community,” HRC President Alphonso David said Thursday. “For those who survive, there is a seemingly endless cycle of trauma and loss. More must be done to protect, support and empower our trans, non-binary and gender non-conforming siblings.”

The latest Black trans woman slain is Bree Black, 27, who was shot to death the night of July 3 in Pompano Beach, Florida. According to the Broward County Sheriff’s Office, she was gunned down in the street.

No suspects have been named in Black’s death.

In Louisiana, two Black trans women were found dead inside a week. Shaki Peters, 32, of Denham Springs, was found slain July 1 off Opal Road near Amite. Like Broward County officials did with Black, St. Helena Parish Sheriff’s Department investigators “deadnamed” Peters, or identified her by the name she was assigned at birth, in their news release.

Deputies received a call about Peters’ body around 2:15 p.m. July 1.

“There is a person of interest from another parish that is currently being investigated,” a statement from the department read. “The investigation is ongoing. Further details will be made available at a later time.”

Nathalie Nia Faulk, a friend of Peters who is also transgender, described her friend as loyal and the life of any party.

“Shaki was a very independent person and very loyal to her friends,” Faulk told The Advocate in Baton Rouge. “She was full of laughter and an abundance of life.”

She called authorities’ misgendering of Peters a systemic problem.

“It’s traumatizing whenever we see (a killing) because we think, ‘will they be honored in their death?’” Faulk said. “It’s a personal violence and whenever we die, often police or others don’t recognize the life that came before it.”

Louisiana Trans Advocates reported that Draya McCarty, of Hammond, was found dead days earlier in Baton Rouge. WWL-TV in New Orleans reported that McCarty’s death has not been ruled a homicide, and Baton Rouge police officials have released no information about her death.

Merci Mack, also known as Merci Richey, was killed June 30 in Dallas. According to the HRC, the 22-year-old was one of at least four Black trans women killed during Pride Month.

Mack, who like Peters was initially misgendered by police, was found unresponsive in the parking lot of an apartment complex that morning.

“Dallas Fire and Rescue responded and pronounced the victim deceased at the scene from apparent gunshot wounds,” a Dallas police news release said. “Residents at the location reported to police that they heard gunfire around 5:00 a.m., but there are no records of 911 calls at that time.”

Authorities acknowledged that Mack was transgender but stated they had “not been provided with a preferred name at (that) time.” They later updated the post with the name Merci Richey.

Investigators announced Thursday that Angelo Walker, 20, has been arrested and charged with murder in Mack’s killing. Dallas County court records show Walker is being held in lieu of $900,000 cash or surety bond.

An arrest affidavit obtained by the Dallas Morning News states a witness reported seeing a man dressed in all black and wearing a ski mask chasing Mack through the parking lot of the Stone Crest Apartments in the Oak Cliff section of Dallas.

Angelo Walker
Angelo Walker (Dallas County Jail)

The gunman, later identified as Walker, was shooting at Mack as she ran. When she fell, he stood over her and fired at her multiple times as she lay on the ground, the News reported.

According to the affidavit, the man’s statement was corroborated by evidence at the scene.

The witness and anonymous tipsters told police Walker killed Mack over a video of the two of them together, which she threatened to make public, the court document said.

Mack’s sister, Tyeshia Rickett, described her sister as a happy person who loved to dote on her niece and nephews, the News said.

“That’s the kind of auntie she was: ‘I don’t care what your mama said, come get in this car and we’re going to get some ice cream.’ They loved her,” Rickett told the newspaper.

#SayHerName MERCI MACK!! 🕊❤️

Posted by Tyeshia Tishon on Saturday, July 4, 2020

Rickett said she was surprised by the outpouring of love for her sister on social media.

“I knew she had friends, but I didn’t know it was that many,” she said. “It was heartwarming to see everybody’s pictures and videos that they shared. It was so amazing.”

HRC officials also mourned Mack’s death.

“Another Black transgender woman has had her life stolen from her,” Tori Cooper, director of community engagement for the HRC’s Transgender Justice Initiative, said in a statement. “We cannot become numb to the fact that our community has learned of more killings of transgender and gender non-conforming people in the past few weeks than HRC has ever tracked in the past seven years.”

In the fifth case in the past month, Brayla Stone, 17, was found dead June 25 in a car in Sherwood, Arkansas. Her cause of death has not been released.

In the wake of her death, both police and her family misgendered her, according to the Arkansas Democrat Gazette. Despite using male pronouns, Stone’s family’s recollections were loving.

“I’m just going to remember him by the loving, kindhearted person he was,” Stone’s cousin Rikeya Holmes, 17, said.

A suspect in Stone’s death was arrested last week, the newspaper reported. Trevone Hayse Miller, 18, is charged with capital murder and tampering with physical evidence, according to Pulaski County Jail records.

The motive for the killing is unclear.

Trevone Hayse Miller
Trevone Hayse Miller (Pulaski County Jail)

Stone’s slaying is not the first for which Miller has been charged. At age 14, he and two other teens were arrested and charged with capital murder and aggravated robbery in the 2016 killing of a fourth teen, 17-year-old Bryan Allen Thompson, in the parking lot of a Sherwood recreational center.

The Democrat Gazette reported that Miller was ultimately given a plea deal in exchange for his potential testimony against his friends. His case was subsequently transferred from adult to juvenile court, where the murder charge was dropped and he pleaded guilty to aggravated robbery.

Miller, who did not pull the trigger, never had to testify because the other two defendants pleaded guilty, the newspaper reported. He served time in the juvenile system.

At the time of Stone’s killing, Miller had open cases against him for a robbery in Little Rock and a firearms charge in Sherwood, the paper said.