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Arrest made in Monday shooting of trans woman in Southeast D.C.

Cause of Saturday’s ‘suspicious’ death of transgender person unresolved

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Unidentified individual

Detectives from the D.C. Police Dept.’s Homicide Branch seek the public’s assistance in identifying an unidentified person who was found in the 2600 block of 11th Street, NW. (Photo courtesy Metro D.C. Police)

D.C. police on Tuesday arrested a 20-year-old man on a charge of assault with intent to kill for the shooting one day earlier of a transgender woman in the 2300 block of Savannah Street, S.E.

Police said Darryl Willard of Northeast Washington surrendered on Tuesday at First District Police Headquarters and was charged in connection with an arrest warrant obtained by police, who said the victim knew Willard.

The victim, whom police have not identified, suffered a non-fatal gunshot wound to the neck about 2 a.m. Monday at the Savannah Street location and showed up at the Seventh District Police Headquarters to report the incident, police said. She was rushed to a nearby hospital and was in stable condition.

The incident was the fourth reported shooting of a transgender person in D.C. since July. The latest case prompted police officials to call a news conference Monday afternoon to discuss this and other transgender related cases.

Transgender activists Earline Budd and Ruby Corado, who spoke at the news conference, said the latest shooting was among more than a dozen violent attacks against transgender women in D.C. this year.

“The transgender community is now in crisis,” Corado said.

Monday’s shooting incident came two days after police found the body of an unidentified person initially thought to be a transgender woman on the sidewalk along the 2600 block of 11th Street, N.W., about 5:20 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 10.

The latest incident also came after police arrested a suspect in a separate case on Sept. 10 in which the suspect, whom police have not identified, allegedly threatened three transgender women with a gun on the 4000 block of Minnesota Ave., S.E. None of the victims were injured. Police listed the incident as an anti-transgender hate crime.

Assistant Police Chief Peter Newsham told the news conference that preliminary findings of an autopsy show no signs of trauma or external injuries suffered by the person found dead on 11th Street, N.W. in the city’s Columbia Heights neighborhood. He said a final determination on whether the death was a homicide or due to natural causes must await the results of toxicology tests, which could take several weeks to complete.

Transgender activists, who viewed a photo of the deceased person released by the D.C. Medical Examiner’s office, said they believe the person was a man, possibly a gay man, dressed in drag rather than someone seeking to permanently change his gender from male to female.

Police released the photo to the media and are appealing to the public for help in identifying the deceased person.

They said investigators initially thought a small discolored area on the person’s face, which is visible in the photo, was a bruise caused by a possible assault. But Newsham said investigators later determined that facial make-up was the cause of the discoloration.

The deceased person is described as a 20 to 35-year-old male of Hispanic or Middle Eastern descent, about five-feet-eight inches tall with black wavy hair about three inches long and brown eyes.

“The decedent was wearing a black and purple jacket, blue shorts and was carrying high heel shoes,” Newsham told the news conference on Monday.

Anyone with information about the person is asked to contact Third District Det. William Covington at 202-645-9600.

“We’re investigating the case as if it were a homicide, just as we do in all unexplained death cases,” said police homicide Capt. Michael Farish.

Farish said police found the person to be in possession of money and jewelry, leading investigators to rule out a robbery as the motive in the event the medical examiner rules the death a homicide.

He said the unidentified decedent was also wearing a wristband similar to those used by nightclubs, including gay clubs, to identify customers who are of legal drinking age or to allow paying customers to leave and re-enter a club.

Farish told reporters that detectives contacted several of the city’s gay clubs to determine whether the wrist band found on the person matched those used by the clubs. Just one club reportedly used the type of wristband the decedent was wearing, but the club couldn’t confirm whether that particular wrist band was used on the night before the decedent was found unconscious, Farish said. He didn’t identify the club.

D.C. Council member Jim Graham (D-Ward 1), who represents the area where the unidentified person’s body was found, said his office is closely monitoring the case. Graham, who is gay, said he is troubled over the large number of crimes against transgender women in the city in recent months.

Newsham said at Monday’s news conference that police had identified a suspect in the shooting of the transgender woman shot early Monday morning on Savannah Street, S.E. He said police expected to make an arrest in the case soon.

Capt. Edward Delgado, director of the police Special Liaison Division, was the first to disclose the shooting in an early morning email to LGBT activists.

“This morning a member of the transgender community walked into the Seventh District Station to report that she sustained a gunshot wound to the neck,” said Delgado, whose division oversees the department’s Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit.

“The female was transported to a local hospital and is in stable condition. The Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit responded to the scene to aid the detectives in their investigation in hope to bring this case to closure,” he said.

The incident came less than two months after 23-year-old Lashai Mclean, a transgender woman, was shot to death shortly before 5 a.m. on July 20 on the 6100 block of Dix Street, N.E.

According to police, a transgender woman who was with Mclean at the time of the shooting told investigators two men approached Mclean and asked her a question. Before Mclean could answer them one of the two men fatally shot Mclean with a semiautomatic handgun, police said. The case remains unsolved.

Eleven days later, on July 31, an unidentified male suspect fired a handgun at a transgender woman along the 6200 block of Dix Street, N.E., just one block from where Mclean was shot. The shot missed hitting the victim, police said.

In a statement following the second shooting, police said they were looking into the possibility of a “potential emerging pattern” between the two incidents. No suspects have been identified in the case.

At Monday’s news conference, Farish said police chose not to release a composite drawing of the unknown suspect who shot Mclean because the witness was unable to provide enough details about the suspect’s appearance.

In a separate incident on Aug. 26, an off-duty D.C. police officer was arrested on a charge of assault with a dangerous weapon for allegedly firing his approved off-duty service revolver at three transgender women and two male friends who were sitting in a car in Northwest Washington.

Two of the transgender women and one of the male friends suffered non-life threatening gunshot wounds in the incident. The victims told police the incident began when words were exchanged between one of the male friends and 21-year veteran D.C. police Officer Kenneth Furr after Furr allegedly propositioned one of the trans women for sex inside a CVS drugstore about 4:40 a.m. that morning.

Transgender activists who know the victims said one of the transgender women involved in the case said Furr became angry when she turned down his request that the two have a sexual encounter.

During Monday’s police news conference, Budd and Corado said they were pleased with the response to the latest cases by police officials but expressed concern that at least some rank and file officers continue to show a bias against members of the LGBT community, especially against transgender women.

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District of Columbia

D.C. Public Schools’ LGBTQ+ program helps ensure students feel safe

More than half of queer students experience bullying, harassment

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According a study from Theirworld of LBGTQ+ Gen-Z youth, students feel unsafe in schools. D.C. Public Schools is trying to combat the problem in the District. 

“Research shows that the way schools and families respond to LGBTQ+ youth can affect their physical health, mental health outcomes, academic outcomes, and their decision-making later in life,” said DCPS’ LGBTQ+ Programming Specialist, Adalphie Johnson. 

DCPS’ LGBTQ+ Program started in 2011 after a 2009 survey from GLSEN revealed that 9 out of 10 queer students reported in-school harassment. 

In response, they have created extensive programming to ensure students feel safe at D.C. Public Schools. In 2015 they created a trans and non-binary policy that included guidance on LGBTQ+ terms, locker room accommodations, gender-neutral dress codes, and more. 

In addition, they host an annual conference for queer and trans DCPS students. 

“The “Leading With Pride” conference increases networking, and builds the leadership capacity of our students and faculty advisers to implement school-level LGBTQ programming,” Johnson said. 

In 2023, more than 500 anti-LGBTQ bills were introduced in state legislatures according to HRC. This year, Theirworld’s survey found that more than half of LGBTQ students experienced bullying and harassment at school.

Johnson said that students feeling safe in school requires creating an environment where all students can thrive. 

“We encourage students to report incidents without fear of retaliation and ensure that reports are taken seriously and investigated promptly,” she said. 

Johnson also pointed out that as a result of discrimination, students are more likely to miss school, which can lead to low grades, along with impairing cognitive responses. So, she said, it is best for schools to respond with action swiftly. 

However, Johnson and the LGBTQ+ programming team acknowledge that not all students come from supportive backgrounds. 

As a part of their trans and gender-nonconforming policy, staff are expected to work closely with students to determine how involved parents are with the transitioning student, before contacting parents. 

Johnson gave parents eight steps to ensure the safety of their child, if they are in the LGBTQ community.  

8 Steps For Parents

1. Educate Yourself. Learn about LGBTQ+ identities, issues, and terminology. Understanding the basics can help you provide better support and avoid misunderstandings.

2. Listen and Communicate. Create an open and non-judgmental space for your child to express themselves. Listen to their experiences and feelings without interrupting or offering unsolicited advice.

3. Advocate for Them. Stand up for your child in situations where they may face discrimination or misunderstanding. Become actively involved in the PTA and other parent groups within the school.

4. Seek Support. Lead or organize programming with/for other parents of LGBTQ+ children can provide  valuable insights and emotional support.

5. Respect Their Privacy. Allow your child to determine their own level of outness at school. Don’t share their identity without their permission.

6. Create a Safe Environment. Inform the school of any homophobic or transphobic remarks or behavior from others.

7. Inform school about their needs. Recognize that each LGBTQ+ person’s experience is unique. Ask your child what they need from you and how you can best support them. Communicate those needs to the school. This would be a great opportunity to develop and share a Safety Plan for the student while at school. 

8. Promote Inclusivity. Encourage, support and inform inclusive policies and practices in your child’s school community. 

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District of Columbia

SMYAL for Summer returns July 25

‘Their hard work, resilience, and identities are valued and celebrated’

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A scene from last year's SMYAL for Summer. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

SMYAL for Summer is back at Franklin Hall on July 25, where the youth services organization will honor the next generation of change makers in the LGBTQ community. 

“In a tumultuous year for policy against LGBTQ+ youth, celebrating the achievements of our scholarship winners sends a powerful message that their hard work, resilience, and identities are valued and celebrated,” said Caro Vordndran, SMYAL’s Development Coordinator. 

At the event, SMYAL, the D.C. queer and trans youth advocacy organization, will honor recipients of its Youth Leadership Award and the Sophie’s Live Out Loud Scholarship. Plus, the event will feature a drag performance from Mia Vanderbilt. 

One of the scholarship recipients, Lion Burney, said that in addition to the scholarship they were most excited for the community they will continue to seek in SMYAL’s safe space. 

“The SMYAL community means a lot to me. From found family to open expression to endless support — I am beyond grateful to be a part of this experience,” Burney said.

This is SMYAL’s 12th annual SMYAL for Summer event and the 40th year of creating community for D.C.’s youth. Given SMYAL’s history, alumni like Nathan Handberg often come back to keep traditions alive. 

Handberg was an awardee in 2019 and served on the selection committee this year. They said they felt great about their continued involvement with SMYAL.

“Being a previous winner really gave me insight that helped with the process of choosing the winners this year and I like that I have the ability to help shape future leaders in our community,” they said. 

Tickets for the event range from $10 for students and $20 for general admission, up to $500 for Platinum Supporters. Tickets for the event will contribute to funding for SMYAL’s year-round youth advocacy programming. The event will run from 6-8 p.m.

“They have housing programs for queer youth… they’ve done queer sex education classes filling in critical gaps that are left by our education curriculum,” Handberg said. “Honestly they do so much more, I could write multiple pages on my experiences with SMYAL and all they do.”

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District of Columbia

Congressional budget amendments target D.C. Office of LGBTQ Affairs, Human Rights Act

U.S. Reps. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) and Nancy Mace (R-S.C.) introduced proposals

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U.S. Capitol
Two Republican members of the U.S. House of Representatives have introduced budget amendments that would defund the D.C. Mayor’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs and prohibit the city from using its funds to enforce the D.C. Human Rights Act in cases of discrimination against transgender people. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Two Republican members of the U.S. House of Representatives introduced separate amendments this week to the D.C. budget bill that would eliminate funding for the Mayor’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs and prohibit the city from using its funds to enforce the D.C. Human Rights Act in cases of discrimination against transgender people. 

The two amendments, along with as many as 10 other amendments introduced by GOP House members targeting the D.C. budget, were expected to come up for a vote in the House Rules Committee, which is now considering the D.C. budget bill, during the week of July 22.

Congressional observers have said the Democratic-controlled U.S. Senate, as it did last year, was expected to reject most of the House amendments to the D.C. budget bill if they were to pass in the full House.

Under the D.C. Home Rule Act, in which Congress established D.C.’s home rule government consisting of an elected mayor and City Council, Congress retains full authority to approve, change, or reject any laws passed by the city, including its annual budget. 

U.S. Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) introduced the amendment calling for eliminating funding for the Office of LGBTQ Affairs. U.S. Rep. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.) introduced the amendment calling for ending funding for enforcing the D.C. Human Rights Act regarding discrimination based on gender identity and expression. 

Spokespersons for the two House members couldn’t immediately be reached by the Washington Blade for comment on what prompted them to introduce their amendments. 

Sharon Nichols, a spokesperson for Congressional Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) said Norton strongly opposes the two amendments and will be urging her House colleagues to oppose them. 

The amendment introduced by Gosar calling for defunding the LGBTQ Affairs Office states “none of the funds appropriated or otherwise made available by this Act, including titles IV and VII, may be used for the salaries and expenses of the Office of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Questioning Affairs established under the Office of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Affairs Act of 2006 (Sec. 2-1831 et seq., D.C Official Code.”

The D.C. Council on June 12 gave final approval for D.C.’s fiscal year 2025 budget that includes $1.7 million in funds for the Office of LGBTQ Affairs. Among those who will lose their salary if the full Congress approves the amendment would be Japer Bowles, the LGBTQ rights advocate who currently serves as director of the LGBTQ Affairs Office. 

The amendment introduced by Mace would prohibit D.C. from using federal or local funds to enforce the part of its municipal regulations that prohibit discrimination based on gender identity or expression, which pertains to trans people. The regulations in question pertain to the D.C. Human Rights Act. 

“It is no surprise to me that Republicans filed two anti-LGBTQ+ amendments to the D.C. appropriations bill,” Norton told the Blade in a statement. “D.C. has some of the strongest non-discrimination initiatives in the country, including regulations protecting individuals from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity,” Norton said.

“The Republican amendment that would prohibit funds from being used to enforce anti-discrimination regulations and the amendment to defund the Mayor’s Office of LGBTQ+ Affairs are disgraceful attempts, in themselves, to discriminate against D.C.’s LGBTQ+ community while denying D.C. residents the limited governance over their local affairs to which they are entitled,” Norton told the Blade. “I will do everything in my power to prevent these amendments from being included in the final bill.”

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