US: Police probe whether transgender women’s deaths connected

Police in Texas investigating whether the murders of two black transgender women are connected.

    At least five black transgender women have been killed in the US in 2019 [File: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters]
    At least five black transgender women have been killed in the US in 2019 [File: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters]

    The shooting deaths of two transgender women and the stabbing of a third in the United States are being investigated to determine whether they are connected, police in Dallas, Texas, said on Tuesday.

    No arrests have been made. The most recent killing occurred over the weekend.

    "These cases, although not directly related at this time, do have some similarities the public needs to be aware of," Major Vincent Weddington said during a news conference.

    He added that Dallas police will work with federal law enforcement officers to determine if any of the attacks should be considered hate crimes.

    Muhlaysia Booker, 23, was found shot dead Saturday in northeastern Dallas. Her death came a month after a mobile phone video showed her being brutally beaten in a separate incident.

    The other killing occurred last October. A transgender woman was found shot dead in a vehicle parked near an elementary school in far southeastern Dallas, police said without mentioning her name.

    In the stabbing, a transgender woman survived after being cut repeatedly in April. 

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    Weddington, in pointing out the similarities, said two of the victims had gotten into a vehicle with someone prior to their deaths, while the third had allowed someone inside her car to pick up a passenger. He declined to specify which victims did what, citing the ongoing investigation.

    He added that two of the victims had been near a similar intersection, southeast of downtown Dallas, before their deaths.

    Weddington appealed to the public for tips. A town hall meeting has been scheduled for Thursday between police and members of the LGBT community.

    Police also are trying to solve the case of a transgender woman whose remains were found in a field in July 2017, Weddington said. The cause of her death has not been determined.

    Weddington has said that no evidence was found to link Booker's death to her April 12 beating following a minor traffic accident. According to a police affidavit, the other driver involved in the accident had a gun and refused to let Booker leave until she paid for the damage to his vehicle. A crowd gathered and someone offered a man $200 to beat the woman. Other men also struck her, while one stomped on her head. Booker suffered a concussion, fractured wrist and other injuries, police said. 

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    Video of the attack, which was shared on social media, showed Booker being beaten as the crowd hollered and watched. Edward Thomas, 29, was arrested and jailed on an aggravated assault charge.

    Thomas's attorneys have issued a statement saying Thomas wasn't involved in Booker's death and sending condolences to her family.

    Five transgender women killed in 2019

    According to the Human Rights Campaign, Booker was the fourth black transgender woman to be killed in the US since the beginning of 2019. A fifth black transgender woman - Michelle "Tamika" Washington - was killed in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on Sunday.

    The others killed this year include, Dana Martin, who was shot dead in Alabama in January, Ashanti Carmon, who was fatally shot in Maryland in March and Claire Legato, who was shot in Ohio last month and died from her injuries last week.

    At least 26 transgender individuals - the majority of whom were black transgender women - were killed in the US last year, the Human Rights Campaign said.

    The rights group also noted that "some of these cases (involved) clear anti-transgender bias" while others, "the victim's transgender status may have put them at risk in other ways, such as forcing them into unemployment, poverty, homelessness and/or survival sex work".

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies