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Off-duty D.C. cop arrested for shooting trans women

Activists, Mayor Gray express shock, outrage

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About 70 people turned out for a 6:30 p.m. rally at the site of the shooting.

D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray joined LGBT activists on Friday in expressing shock and outrage over news that an off-duty District police officer allegedly fired a pistol at three transgender women and two male friends while the group was sitting in a car on a city street.

Police issued a statement Friday saying three of the people in the car “sustained non-life threatening injuries” in the incident. The statement said the officer involved in the incident was charged with assault with a dangerous weapon and driving while intoxicated.

Deputy Police Chief Diane Groomes told the Blade that the officer, identified by police sources as Kenneth Furr, was stripped of his police duties pending the outcome of an investigation by the department’s Internal Affairs Division and Force Investigation Team.

MORE IN THE BLADE: TRANS ACTIVISTS HOLD PROTEST OUTSIDE POLICE, US ATTORNEY OFFICES

In a separate statement released earlier in the day, Mayor Gray expressed “shock and outrage” over the incident.

“I am deeply troubled by the apparent circumstances surrounding this incident and await the results of a full MPD investigation,” Gray said. “These are serious charges, and they are particularly disturbing to have been brought against one who is sworn to protect and serve.”

Gray praised members of the LGBT community, including officials with the local group Transgender Health Empowerment, for providing immediate assistance to the victims and help in the police investigation.

Employees with Transgender Health Empowerment and members of the D.C. Trans Coalition said they spoke on Friday with two of the transgender women involved in the incident. According to the employees and the DCTC members, the two women said the incident started when Officer Furr, appearing drunk, approached one of the two women on the street near First and Pierce Streets, N.W. about 5:25 a.m.

They said the two victims informed them that Furr became angry when he solicited one of the women for sex and she turned him down. What unfolded next remains unclear, with police officials saying they wanted to wait until Furr appeared in court on Saturday or Monday before providing full details as they known them.

“Preliminary investigation reveals a confrontation occurred involving an off-duty officer and five other individuals, some of which are members of the transgender community,” police said in a statement released Friday morning. “The officer discharged a handgun and one person was shot and sustained non-life threatening injuries,” the statement says.

“Two other individuals involved in the incident sustained injuries which are also non-life threatening,” according to the statement. “The nature of those injuries is under investigation to determine their cause.”

T.H.E. employee and transgender activist Jeri Hughes said two of the trans women involved in the incident told her organization that one of them was struck by a bullet in the hand and the other was grazed by a bullet. Hughes said one of the men in the car with the three trans women, who was identified as the brother of one of the women, sustained a “very serious” gunshot wound and was in critical condition at George Washington University Hospital.

Police would neither confirm nor deny that report as of late Friday, saying they were still investigating the details of the incident.

About 70 people turned out for a 6:30 p.m. rally at the site of the shooting, which was organized by T.H.E. and DCTC. Among those who spoke at the rally were D.C. Council member Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6) and Groomes, who said she was appearing on behalf of Police Chief Cathy Lanier.

DCTC member Elijah Edelman told the gathering that Friday’s shooting of at least two transgender women by an off-duty police officer was one of many attacks and assaults against trans women that have occurred in the past few months in D.C.

“So I think it’s fair to say a lot of us are really pissed off,” he said. “It’s very, very frustrating. We had conversations with Chief Lanier over the past several weeks, over the past several years, and nothing changes – nothing changes,” Edelman said. “So this is a moment in which we can finally say enough – we’re not going to keep doing this.”

Other activists speaking at the rally, including D.C. Trans Coalition member Ruby Corado, praised the police handling of the latest incident. They said they were hopeful that police were finally carrying out a department policy for transgender related matters that was excellent “on paper” but had not been followed very often by rank and file officers.

In the latest case, the department’s Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit was called immediately to provide help, Groomes told the rally. She said the GLLU, in turn, immediately alerted LGBT activists on its e-mail list about the incident and what the unit was doing to respond.

Two Latino transgender women who spoke at the rally gave personal accounts of attacks against them in the city. Both women spoke in Spanish, with Corado translating their remarks in English. One told of how she was beaten and raped two weeks ago by an ex-boyfriend. The other women told of how she was attacked inside Dupont Circle by a male assailant who she is certain targeted her because of her status as a transgender woman.

“We wanted them to come here so we can put a human face on the statistics of so many of these cases that continue to happen,” Corado said.

Others speaking at the rally included A.J. Singletary of Gays and Lesbians Opposing Violence (GLOV), Cyndee Clay of Helping Individual Prostitutes Survive (HIPS), and Sadie Vashti of D.C. Trans Coalition.

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District of Columbia

46 out commissioners join ANC Rainbow Caucus

Raising the profile of issues unique to D.C.’s LGBTQ residents

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(Washington Blade file photo by Aram Vartian)

At least 46 out members of the city’s Advisory Neighborhood Commissions who were elected in November have joined the ANC Rainbow Caucus, according to caucus co-chair Vincent Slatt, who won election to the Dupont Circle ANC Single Member District 2B03.

Slatt said he and ANC Rainbow Caucus co-chair Ryan Cudemas-Brunoli of ANC 3F01 plan to continue the caucus’ activities since its founding in 2018 of raising the profile of problems and issues unique to LGBTQ residents throughout the city and to use caucus members’ positions to push for a D.C. government response to those issues.

At least 34 straight-identified commissioners have signed up as allies to work with the Rainbow Caucus, Slatt said.

The city currently has a total of 46 ANCs representing neighborhoods throughout the city that have between two and as many as 10 single member districts (SMDs) each with an elected commissioner, with a total of 345 commissioners. Under the city’s Home Rule Charter, ANC seats are nonpartisan, unpaid positions whose elected members are charged with advising the D.C. government on local neighborhood issues.

Among the caucus’ past accomplishments, Slatt said, was the active role it played in lobbying the D.C. Council to amend the city’s hate crimes law to ban the so-called LGBTQ “panic defense.” Defense attorneys have used that defense to argue that a client charged with physically assaulting or murdering an LGBTQ person did so after they panicked upon learning the victim was gay or LGBTQ.

Slatt noted that the caucus, among other actions related to crime targeting LGBTQ people, submitted a community impact statement to a D.C. Superior Court judge at the time of sentencing for a man charged with a violent hate crime assault targeting a gay Asian man and his elderly parents. The judge denied a request by the defendant’s attorney to issue a suspended jail term with probation and instead sentenced the man to seven months in jail.

Slatt said the ANC Rainbow Caucus is currently closely monitoring the police investigation into the January 2023 murder of D.C. transgender woman Jasmine Star Parker.

“As in previous caucus work, we’ll have letters, resolutions, and proclamations on different matters,” Slatt said, which will be posted on a website the caucus plans to launch soon.

The caucus can currently be contacted via email at ancrainbowcaucus.org.

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District of Columbia

Newly diagnosed HIV cases increased slightly in D.C. in 2021

Report cautions fewer people were tested during COVID-19 pandemic

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Clover Barnes, Director of the D.C. Department of Health’s HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis, STD and TB Administration (HAHSTA), was among those playing a lead role in preparing the newly released D.C.HIV/AIDS surveillance report. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The D.C. Department of Health’s Annual Epidemiology and Surveillance Report released on Tuesday shows there were 230 newly diagnosed HIV cases in the D.C. in 2021, the most recent year in which data have been analyzed.

The report says the 230 cases in 2021 represents an 83 percent decline in new cases from the peak number of 1,374 cases in 2007, but a slight increase from 219 cases reported in 2020. The report shows there were 273 newly reported HIV cases in 2019, 331 cases in 2018 and 386 in 2017.

In addition to HIV, the report includes data related to the number of newly reported cases of hepatitis, tuberculosis, and other sexually transmitted infections such as syphilis, gonorrhea and chlamydia. 

“Annual surveillance data is critical to our understanding of disease trends and our planning and programmatic efforts to control and prevent disease,” the report says. “However, the data in this year’s report must be examined in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic continues to have an immense impact on the availability, accessibility and utilization of disease screening, prevention, and care services,” according to the report.

Among other things, the report says the D.C. Department of Health, to which it refers as D.C. Health, saw a 20 percent decline in the volume of HIV, chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis and hepatitis laboratory reports received in 2020 compared to 2019, indicating fewer people were being tested and diagnosed for the diseases. 

“HIV lab volume decreased further from 2020 to 2021 with a 20 percent decline, and an overall decline from 2019 to 32 percent,” the report says. “Given disruptions to screening services, the potential for underdiagnosis and underreporting is most substantial for those with asymptomatic infections,” it says.

The Annual Epidemiology and Surveillance Report was released at a Tuesday event at the city’s Town Hall Education Arts Recreation Campus in Southeast D.C. in commemoration of Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. 

Among those who attended or spoke were Harold Phillips, director of the White House Office of National AIDS Policy, and Dr. Demetre Daskalakis, deputy coordinator of the White House Mpox Response who’s on leave from his role as director of HIV/AIDS Prevention at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Also participating in the event were Rita Harcrow-Flegel, drector of the U.S. Department Housing and Urban Development’s Office of HIV/AIDS Housing; Dr. Sharon Lewis, interim director of D.C. Health; Clover Barnes, senior deputy director of D.C. Health’s HIV/AIDS, STD, and TB Administration, and Erin Whelan, executive director of the D.C. LGBTQ youth advocacy group SMYAL.

Statements at the event by the White House and D.C. officials and a statement released by the office of D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser point to stepped up efforts by D.C. to provide HIV testing and treatment services to all those at risk for HIV, including services free of charge for those unable to pay for them.

Among the services announced is the availability of Post Exposure Prophylaxis, or PEP, a medication D.C. Health is offering free of charge that is taken to prevent HIV infection if taken within 72 hours of being exposed to HIV. Also available, officials said, is the medication known as Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis, or PrEP, which, when taken as a daily pill, prevents people from becoming infected with HIV. That too is available free of charges for those in need, the statement from the mayor’s office says.

“We want people in D.C. to know their status and get connected to the right care at the right time — with no shame or stigma attached,” Bowser said in the statement. “We have so many fantastic healthcare partners in D.C., and they have helped us expand access to free PEP, free PrEP, free condoms, free at-home tests, and more,” the mayor said. “Now, we need to make sure people know what’s available and how to access it.”

The statement calls on the public, especially those at risk for HIV, to access information about the city’s HIV prevention and support related services through a new website: sexualbeing.org.

It says the city continues to push for its “bold goal” of having fewer than 21 new HIV diagnoses each year by 2030. It says the city is also stepping up efforts to ensure that everyone who tests positive for HIV will quickly access the anti-retroviral medication that, if used as directed, prevents HIV related illness and suppresses a person’s HIV viral load to a point where they cannot transmit HIV to another person through sexual contact.

The newly released report includes these findings for the year 2021:

• There were 11,904 current D.C. residents, or 1.8 percent of the population, living with HIV in 2021.

• Sexual contact was the leading mode of transmission of newly diagnosed HIV cases in 2021. 

• There were 230 newly diagnosed HIV cases in 2021, a small increase over the 219 new cases reported in 2020, but a significant drop from the 1,373 cases in the peak year of 2007 and the continued decline in cases in subsequent years.

• The proportion of people living with HIV in D.C. in 2021 that are Black is 71 percent

• The proportion of Black men diagnosed with HIV in 2021 who have sex with men (MSM) was 35 percent.

• The proportion of white men diagnosed with HIV in 2021 who have sex with men (MSM} was 8 percent. 

• The proportion of Black heterosexual men diagnosed with HIV in 2021 was 8 percent.

• The proportion of Black heterosexual women diagnosed with HIV in 2021 was 15 percent.

• The report does not show the proportion of white heterosexual men who tested positive for HIV in 2021.

• The proportion of transgender persons diagnosed with HIV in 2021 was 3.5 percent. 

• In 2021, the overall gender breakdown in the proportion of newly diagnosed HIV cases was 73.9 percent male and 22.6 percent female. 

The report was expected to be posted for access on the D.C. Health website at www.dchealth.dc.gov

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Virginia

Va. House passes two anti-transgender bills

Measures likely to die in Democratic-controlled state Senate

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(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The Republican-controlled Virginia House of Delegates on Tuesday approved two anti-transgender bills.

State Del. Karen Greenhalgh (R-Virginia Beach)’s House Bill 1387, which would ban trans athletes from school sports teams that correspond with their gender identity, passed by a 51-47 vote margin. State Del. Dave LaRock (R-Loudoun County)’s House Bill 2432, which would require school personnel to out trans students to their parents, passed by a 50-48 vote margin.

“We are dealing with forcibly outing kids regardless of the safety of their home,” said state Del. Danica Roem (D-Manassas) on Monday when she spoke against HB 2432. “You have no idea of the harm you’re causing. Do better for them.”

Roem, who is the first openly trans woman seated in a state legislature in the U.S., also spoke against HB 1387 on the House floor.

Equality Virginia and the Human Rights Campaign are among the groups that condemned the bills’ passage.

“It can be hard for people to understand what it means to be a transgender or nonbinary young person if they’ve never met one. But trans and nonbinary young people are our friends, family members and neighbors, and like all young people, they deserve safe and inclusive learning environments where they can thrive and be supported as they are,” said Kasey Suffredini, vice president of advocacy and government affairs at the Trevor Project, in a statement. “These bills would only contribute to further isolation and stigma at a time when trans young people are already struggling.”

The two bills will now go before the Democratic-controlled Virginia Senate.

The Senate Education Committee last week killed six measures that would have banned transition-related health care for minors in Virginia and prevented trans athletes from school teams that correspond with their gender. It is likely HB 1387 and HB 2432 will meet a similar fate.

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