The Muhlaysia Booker Case Sheds Light On Violent Crimes Against Trans People In 2019
Authorities report that at least 10 transgender people have been attacked and killed so far this year, with some observers stating that such violence is on the rise.
DALLAS, TX — On April 12, 2019, police allege that Edward Thomas, 29, attacked Muhlaysia Booker, a 23-year-old African-American transgender woman, in a Dallas parking lot. Other men reportedly joined in the broad-daylight fray, kicking and punching Booker until Thomas allegedly knocked her unconscious.
Video of the horrifying incident was then reportedly uploaded online. It is said to depict a crowd of onlookers watching the violence, with one woman reportedly shouting a homophobic slur.
The video went viral, was condemned by Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings, and, cops say, led to Thomas being arrested for aggravated assault (Texas hate-crime laws reportedly don’t cover gender). According to police, Thomas is claiming someone offered him $200 to assault Booker following a minor traffic accident.
Muhlaysia Booker survived that violence with a concussion and a broken wrist. Talking to reporters at a rally later in April, Booker said, “This time I can stand before you, where in other scenarios, we’re at a memorial.”
Tragically, just one month later, memorials were being held for Booker. On May 18, Dallas police reportedly found Booker lying face down in the street, dead from a gunshot wound.
After finding no connection between the mob that previously assaulted Booker, on June 13, police announced that Kendrell Lavar Lyles, 24, had been arrested and charged with the murder of Booker and two other women, who have not yet been identified.
Dallas PD Major Max Geron also announced that Lyles is a person of interest in the slaying of another transgender woman in the city, Chynal Lindsey, 26, whose body was pulled from White Rock Lake on June 1.
Police noted, as well, that the crimes against Booker and Lindsey were similar to two other recent murders of transgender people in the Dallas area that are still being investigated.
The murder of Muhlaysia Booker mere weeks after the beating she suffered horrified the public and seems to have illuminated a tragic trend of violence against transgender people in 2019, particularly if they are people of color.
According to the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), advocates recorded 26 incidents of fatal violence against transgender people in 2018. This year, HRC reports 10 transgender people have been shot to death or killed through other violent means.
Aside from Booker and Lindsey, HRC lists the 2019 victims to date as follows:
- Dana Martin, 31, shot to death in Montgomery, Alabama, on January 6.
- Jazzaline Ware, found dead in her Memphis, Tennessee, apartment in March; her death is reportedly being investigated as a homicide.
- Ashanti Carmon, 27, shot to death in Maryland on March 30.
- Claire Legato, 21, shot in Cleveleland on April 15, allegedly died from the wounds on May 14.
- Michelle “Tamika” Washington, 40, shot to death in Philadelphia on May 19.
- Paris Cameron, 20, shot to death in May 25 attack in Detroit that reportedly also killed two gay men, Alunte Davis, 21, and Timothy Blancher, 20.
- Chanel Scurlock, 23, shot to death in Lumberton, North Carolina on June 6.
- Zoe Spears, 23, discovered in the street with signs of trauma and later pronounced dead on June 13.
On June 15, the American Medical Association (AMA) spoke out against what it has deemed “an epidemic of violence against the transgender community, especially the amplified physical dangers faced by transgender people of color.”
AMA Board Member S. Bobby Mukkamala, M.D., declared in an official statement, “The number of victims could be even higher due to underreporting, and better data collection by law enforcement is needed to create strategies that will prevent anti-transgender violence.”
Talking to Time, Beverly Tillery, the executive director of the NYC Anti-Violence Project, pointed out that interpersonal prejudice and what many perceive as a lack of necessary legislation can often lead transgender people into potentially violent conditions.
According to Tillery, “All of the discrimination [in society] results in people often living lives that are just more vulnerable to violence. You have a job that is more tenuous, you live in places that are more tenuous. People look at you and they don’t care about your existence and they don’t value your life.”
Tillery also advocated for communities to provide more resources to transgender people with the aim of making it clear that “they’re valued community members. We’re looking out for them here.”