July 21, 2011 at 9:39 pm EDT | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
D.C. police struggle over disclosure of transgender murder
Lashay Mclean

Lashay Mclean. (Photo courtesy Transgender Health Empowerment)

D.C. police initially withheld information disclosing that the victim of a shooting death early Wednesday morning in Northeast Washington was a transgender woman, reopening concerns among LGBT activists about police handling of crimes affecting the transgender community.

In a press release issued Wednesday afternoon, police identified the victim as “23-year-old Myles Mclean of N.E. Washington, D.C.” The release made no mention that “Myles” is the legal birth name given to a transgender woman who had been using the name Lashai Mclean following her gender transition over the past several years.

The press release says Sixth District officers responded to a report of a shooting on the 6100 block of Dix Street, N.E. at 4:26 a.m. on July 20 and found the victim suffering from an apparent gunshot wound. The release says the victim was pronounced dead at a local hospital.

While the department’s Public Information Office omitted information about Mclean being a transgender person in its press release to the news media, the police Special Liaison Division, which oversees the Gay & Lesbian Liaison Unit, disclosed the transgender angle to the case in e-mails it sent to its list of various community activists and organizations, including LGBT activists.

A police spokesperson said late Thursday that investigators had not determined a motive or identified a suspect in the case.

Around the same time that police issued their press release, the office of Mayor Vincent Gray issued a separate press release that did identify Mclean as a transgender person.

“Metropolitan Police Department Chief Cathy Lanier today reported to Mayor Vincent Gray a homicide overnight at 6110 Dix Street, N.E. in which the victim of a fatal shooting was a transgender person,” says the release from the mayor’s office.

“Jeffrey D. Richardson, director of the Mayor’s Office of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Affairs, also was advised of the incident,” the release says. “At this time MPD officials say they have no information to indicate that this is a hate crime. However, it is very early in the investigation.”

The release includes a statement from Gray saying every homicide in the city “is a tragedy for which the perpetrators must be brought to swift justice.” The mayor added, “However, if the investigation concludes that this shooting was the result of bias based on sexual orientation or gender identity, MPD and my administration will work with this community to see that there is an appropriate response to this kind of violence, which cannot be tolerated.”

Gwendolyn Crump, director of the police department’s Office of Communications, told the Blade on Friday that the department has a policy of not disclosing the gender identity or sexual orientation of crime victims unless police determine those characteristics are related to the crime.

“We respect the privacy of our victims,” Crump said.

Transgender activist Earline Budd, an official with the D.C. group Transgender Health Empowerment, said the police policy “makes no sense” in the Lashai Mclean murder case because Mclean lived openly as a transgender woman.

“There’s nothing private about this at all,” Budd said.

“We have requested that the police make a correction on that release,” said Ruby Corado, a member of the D.C. Trans Coalition. “We think the community should be notified about the true nature of this case.”

In the past, police officials have said they have decided on a case by case basis whether to disclose if a crime victim is transgender. In some cases, police officials have said they defer to the wishes of the victim’s parents or next of kin, some of whom have asked police not to reveal that a crime victim is transgender.

In a statement released on Thursday, the D.C. Trans Coalition said it learned from its own sources that “another trans woman was present during the attack and, thankfully, escaped.”

Transgender Health Empowerment, another organization that provides services to the transgender community, said Mclean had been one of the group’s clients and had frequently visited the group’s drop-in facility on North Capitol Street.

“Lashai was a friend to many people in the community – including several D.C. Trans Coalition organizers who offer our sincerest condolence to those grieving this loss,” the D.C. Trans Coalition statement says. “We must stress once again the absolute necessity for the police and media to respect Lashai’s gender identity. The least we can do to honor her memory is to respect her chosen, lived identity.”

The D.C. Trans Coalition and friends of Mclean are holding a candle light vigil in Mclean’s honor on Saturday, July 23, at 7 p.m., at the intersection of 61st and Dix Street, N.E., near where Mclean was murdered.

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

  • The DC Police Department must develop a Policy and Procedure on handling the Disclosure and Reporting of the Gender Identities of crime victims. Disclosure should be standardized and not at the arbitrary discretion of varying individual personalities, especially considering the controversial nature of the issue, and the prevalence of violence against trans-gendered individuals.

    Hiding this information from the public only perpetuates the stygma, and the importance of disclosure to the public that a life has been taken fiills a greater societal need than than randomly pandering to individual biases within the Department and/or family of the Deceased. Transgendered people want and deserve to live, peacefully and safely so, in the City of DC.

    The Decesed would have certainly wanted it to be this way.

  • If MPD really cared about solving this LGBT-related homicide case, it would have issued its press release (which sought the public’s help for information, w/ reward) to *ALL* of its SEVEN neighborhood district listservs, not just its tiny MPD-SLU listserv and its small MPD-6D listserv.

    If MPD’s brass really thought this transgender-related homicide was important, Chief Lanier, herself, would have posted MPD’s press release CITYWIDE on all MPD listservs, to give it sufficient weight and attention.

    FYI, just for comparison– MPD’s SLU listserv only has about 100 members, many of them MPD officers and civilian employees, plus minority activists and reporters. The MPD-6D listerv has about 600 members. Its nearby neighbor, the MPD-5D listserv has over 1,400 members. And the MPD-4D listserv, covering much of upper NE has over 1,200 members.

    Neither MPD’s 5D, nor its 4D listservs published the press release for this homicide.

    MPD’s chiefs really use their MPD-SLU listserv as a public relations vehicle to pretend to the LGBT community they are doing something serious to prevent and deter crimes against LGBT victims. However, Chief Lanier continues to degrade GLLU’s central unit and its SLU command, and it shows.

    In this instance, what little circulation MPD did give this homicide case, was further downplayed by withholding the victim’s transgender identity and name. Whether intentional or not, it IS, at least, inept police work. The bucks stop with Chief Lanier.

    I think we’re seeing a disturbing and persistent pattern of MPD and its chiefs downplaying LGBT-related crimes on their own listservs and in the wider media. If anti-LGBT crimes were to receive the media attention they deserve, then Chief Lanier (and Mayor Gray) will have to increasingly defend Lanier’s disastrous policy in degrading GLLU’s central unit and its command at SLU.

    In a related development, Mayor Gray’s press release was not sent to NE’s BrooklandGLBT listserv. Again, whether intentional or not, it is not good communications with the LGBT community.

  • I bet if that Transgendered Woman was Caucasian from U Street area. They would have found that killer. Lanier I think it’s time you go!

  • M.P.D. Disrespects yet ANOTHER Transgender woman!

    The M.P.D. does this intentionally. I was arrested in D.C. 18 months ago and they called me by my birth name the I had legally changed four years earlier. Why in God’s name would I change my name if I wanted to be called by my birth name?! The fucking police told me my new legal female name is an alias. Funny, social security, the State of Maryland, Maryland MVA, and sevaral other agencies accept it as my legal name. Only the M.P.D. are bigots that want to fuel the bigoted stereotypes that their officers and patrolmen continue to keep alive by clinging to that very outdated machismo of yesteryear.

    In the case of a murder victim they have absolutely no legal right to publicly release a statement stating the victims name incorrectly. Unless she hadn’t had it changed legally. If it was changed legally that is technically libel by D.C. statutes.

    Shame on you Chief Lanier. Is it Catty? Or Katty? What is that darn name?

  • Hey chief catty (meow) Lanier what kind of human being are u? The world is progressing to live better with each other, accept each other as we are, but not you. You must be a hundred to still live by old fazed out rules and old wives tales that are inconsequent to our daily life. LEGALLY, do you understand what this means? Let me put it in simple terms for you.
    Court Higher than you
    Decision OKAYED by a judge to change her name
    You see where I am going with this? Either you did not read really well the document the JUDGE signed saying you may change your name or you do not RESPECT the law you yourself is supposed to enforce. Which is it? Are you intelligent and caring or a cold heart, jaded, biatch?

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