American’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender civil rights organisation has drawn attention to the murder of a transgender woman who had previously been a victim of police brutality.
Duanna Johnson, whose abuse at the hands of two police officers earlier this year was captured on surveillance video, was found dead in North Memphis just before midnight on Sunday, November 9th. She had been shot.
“The tragic murder of Duanna Johnson must be fully investigated,” said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese.
“The Tennessee Equality Project recently provided much-needed training to employees of the Memphis Police Department on how to be respectful and responsive to the needs of the LGBT community.
“Today, we call on the Memphis Police Department to fulfill its renewed commitment to treating transgender people with respect and fairness by thoroughly investigating this horrible crime and ensuring that every measure is taken to bring those responsible to justice.”
Ms Johnson was considering suing the police department at the time of her death.
75 people marched from Memphis Gay and Lesbian Community Centre at a vigil in her memory last night.
“I keep encountering people who ask me … how could you mourn her? My only response to that is, how could you not?” said Amy Livingston, one of the march organisers, reports the Memphis Commercial Appeal.
“In Duanna’s memory, we must pursue justice. We cannot let this go unresolved.”
On Friday the Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition issued a special appeal on behalf of the family of Duanna Johnson to help them cover funeral expenses.
In just four hours, nearly two hundred people donated more than $5300 to the fund.
In June Ms Johnson was brutally beaten by a Memphis police officer while in police custody after she refused to respond to a transgender slur.
A second officer held her down during the beating.
“Surveillance video showed the officer striking Johnson several times with handcuffs wrapped around his gloved fist and later spraying her with mace. Both officers were eventually fired from the department,” said HRC.
Ms Johnson’s murder is the third of a transgender person in Memphis since 2006.
Tiffany Berry, a twenty-one-year-old African American transgender woman, was shot and killed on February 16th that year.
Ebony Whitaker, a 20-year-old African American transgender woman, was murdered by an unknown assailant and found dead on July 1st 2008.
Tennessee’s hate crimes law does not explicitly cover hate crimes based on gender identity.
“The recent rash of violent crimes against transgender people in Memphis further demonstrates the need to enact federal hate crimes legislation that includes sexual orientation and gender identity,” said HRC.