Last month, a 23-year-old transgender woman was brutally attacked in a Dallas parking lot. She was treated at a hospital for bone fractures and a possible concussion. On Saturday, she was found face down in the street, dead from a gunshot wound.
The Dallas Police Department confirmed in a Sunday news conference that Muhlaysia Booker was shot and killed.
The earlier attack, on April 12, happened after Booker backed into someone’s car by accident. A bystander took a video of the attack on a cellphone, and in the video, someone can be heard offering a man $200 to beat up Booker. After the accident, Booker fled the scene, and the man — later identified as Edward Thomas by Dallas Police — ran Booker off the road. Several people yelled homophobic slurs while they beat her.
The men gave Booker a fractured wrist, concussion, and other injuries. The beating only ended when several women got involved and dragged her to safety, according to news outlet CBS DFW.
Thomas was arrested following the attack. He is no longer in police custody. Dallas Police Lt. Vincent Weddington said there hasn’t been any evidence linking Thomas to Booker’s death this past weekend, and did not say if there were other suspects.
Police have not yet identified all of the people responsible for attacking Booker.
Dallas police have said they don’t have enough information yet on whether the violence was motivated by hate.
After the April attack, Booker spoke at a press conference at Abounding Prosperity, Inc., a Dallas-based nonprofit that provides services to LGBTQ people.
Booker told the crowd, “This time I can stand before you, whereas in other scenarios we are at a memorial. Our time to seek justice is now. If not now, when?”
Booker’s words to the Dallas community represent the reality many black trans women face: The question is not whether they will suffer from transphobic and racist violence, but when.
Booker is now the fifth trans woman of color to have been killed in 2019. On Sunday, in North Philadelphia, Michelle Simone died from multiple gunshot wounds. According to the Human Rights Campaign, which tracks the deaths of transgender people, there were three other such deaths this year. In January, Dana Martin died of a gunshot wound in Alabama. She was found in a vehicle in a roadside ditch. In March, Ashanti Carmon was shot dead in Prince George’s County, Maryland. In Cleveland this past April, a man named John Booth allegedly shot 21-year-old Claire Legato in the head following an argument between himself and Legato’s mother over whether he stole a check. Legato died from her injuries a month later.
The numbers may be higher than LGBTQ rights organizations and the media have reported. It’s common for media outlets and police to misgender trans people after their deaths, which makes it difficult to know for certain how many have been murdered.
In 2018, at least 26 transgender people died after being shot, stabbed, set on fire, or choked to death. Some of the people suspected of killing them were strangers, acquaintances, and partners, but in many cases, police did not find the person or persons responsible for their death. In 2017, there were at least 29 deaths and in 2016, the count was 23 according to the Human Rights Campaign. Since 2013, at least 128 trans people have been murdered, and 80% of them were people of color.
A 2017 report from the National Coalition of AntiViolence Programs examined patterns of violence against LGBTQ people. It found that people in the LGBTQ community who have experienced hate violence were most commonly subjected to it at a private residence or the workplace. Trans women, however, were nearly three times more likely to experience violence on the street.
LGBTQ advocacy groups and politicians this week mourned Booker’s death as the latest in the troubling pattern of violence.
“We must #SayHerName,” the Human Rights Campaign tweeted.
Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke, who previously represented Texas, tweeted, “Trans women of color across America deserve better.”
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), a Democratic presidential candidate, tweeted that “We must call it out & fight back so everyone is free to be who they are without fear.”
Muhlaysia Booker was killed just weeks after surviving a vicious attack described as “mob violence.”
— Human Rights Campaign (@HRC) May 20, 2019
Muhlaysia Booker deserved better. Trans women of color across America deserve better. Justice must be served. Equality and full civil rights must be secured. And together, we must fight for a country that treats everyone with dignity and respect. https://t.co/thXytUXGzt
— Beto O'Rourke (@BetoORourke) May 20, 2019
My thoughts are with Muhlaysia & her loved ones. A record number of trans Americans were killed last year—a number that disproportionately affects trans women of color. We must call it out & fight back so everyone is free to be who they are without fear. https://t.co/dK0fgr8ekx
— Elizabeth Warren (@ewarren) May 20, 2019
Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings (D) also expressed condolences on Sunday, tweeting, “I am deeply saddened to learn of the murder of Muhlaysia Booker. I call on anyone with information on this homicide to please contact the Dallas Police Department.”
I am deeply saddened to learn of the murder of Muhlaysia Booker. I call on anyone with information on this homicide to please contact the Dallas Police Department.
— Mike Rawlings (@Mike_Rawlings) May 20, 2019
And the National Center for Transgender Equality on Monday tweeted an article about Booker’s untimely death, stating, “Trans people face proportionally high levels of violence, especially trans women of color.”
At a rally after her assault, Muhlaysia said "This time, I can stand before you. Whereas in other scenarios, we are at a memorial.”
— National Center for Transgender Equality (@TransEquality) May 20, 2019
Meanwhile, conservatives have continued to push harmful myths about trans women being dangerous to cisgender women. On Friday, 173 Republicans voted against the Equality Act, a sweeping nondiscrimination bill for LGBTQ people. Rep. Vicki Hartzler (R-MO) said equality for trans and queer people would “eliminate safe spaces for women, irreparably harm children, trample parental rights, undermine the free exercise of religion, and dismantle free athletics.”
Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) said the presence of trans women in the same spaces as cis women would re-traumatize cis women who were survivors of sexual violence.
Trans people are often subjected to violence and harassment when trying to access bathrooms. Trans students who go to schools where bathroom access is limited are also more likely to experience sexual assault.
This piece has been updated to include another report on a transgender woman’s death and a statement from Sen. Elizabeth Warren on Booker’s death.