Transgender rights advocate Earline Budd for the past year has been urging D.C. police to consider disclosing “just a little more” information about six unsolved murders of transgender women that took place in D.C. since the year 2000.
In response to an inquiry from the Washington Blade, police have confirmed that the murders of four gay men since 2000 also remain unsolved, three in D.C. and one in Prince George’s County, Md.
D.C. police, meanwhile, point out that they have made arrests and closed six other murders of transgender women in the District since 2000.
Budd said she and others in the transgender community remain hopeful that witnesses or others who may have known the female transgender victims in the unsolved cases – all of whom were African American – might come forward with information to help police make an arrest.
The release of additional details about the victims or the circumstances surrounding the cases might jog the memory of someone who could provide investigators with an “important tip,” Budd said.
But the commander of the D.C. police Homicide Branch, Capt. Anthony Haythe, said that while he and the team of detectives working on the unsolved trans and gay murder cases welcome information from citizens, releasing further details about the cases could compromise their ongoing investigations.
“We typically do not release any information that’s intimate to the case or any very specific information,” he told the Washington Blade in an interview earlier this month.
“Those are the things we would not want to put out because there are perpetrators still out there and you’re actually giving them information and different things they can use as their defense if they are eventually caught and arrested,” he said.
He noted that police offer a reward of up to $25,000 to anyone providing information leading to the arrest and conviction for a murder case.
D.C. police are offering a reward of up to $50,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for the double murder of transgender women Ukea Davis, 18, and Stephanie Thomas, 19, on Aug. 12, 2002.
In a development that shocked LGBT activists and city officials, an unidentified gunman fired multiple rounds from a semiautomatic weapon, execution style, into the upper body and head of the two women while they sat inside a car on the 4900 block of C Street, S.E. about 3:20 a.m.
Although at least one witness saw the shooting, police said they have no known motive or suspect in the case.
Haythe, meanwhile, reiterated a longstanding D.C. police policy of not disclosing the sexual orientation of homicide victims unless investigators obtain evidence showing that the murder was linked to the victim’s status as a gay or lesbian person.
Police spokesperson Rachel Schaerr Reid said the policy also calls for not disclosing the gender identity of a crime victim unless there is evidence to show there is a nexus between the crime and the person’s gender identity, such as in the case of a hate crime.
In the four unsolved murders of gay men in the D.C. area since 2000 – three in D.C. and one in Prince George’s County — police in the two jurisdictions did not disclose that the victims were gay.
The Blade learned about the gay male victims’ sexual orientation from friends and family members, some of whom spoke to the media.
According to police spokesperson Reid, investigators have classified only one of the unsolved trans or gay murder cases in D.C. since 2000 as a hate crime. That was the Aug. 26, 2009 murder of transgender woman Tyli’a ‘Nana Boo’ Mack, 21, who was stabbed to death on the street in the 200 block of Q Street, N.W. in broad daylight at 2:38 p.m.
A trans woman friend who was with Mack during the attack and who suffered non-fatal stab wounds from the same male assailant told friends the attacker called the two women anti-gay and possibly anti-trans names shortly before the attack.
Prince George’s County police have said the case occurring in that jurisdiction also has not been classified as a hate crime. P.G. police have said they have yet to determine a motive. That case involved the May 30, 2017 stabbing death of Matthew Mickens-Murrey, 26, who was found dead inside his apartment in a neighborhood just outside Hyattsville, Md.
Friends said Mickens-Murrey was last seen at the D.C. gay bar Nellie’s during the Memorial Day weekend after attending events related to D.C. Black Pride that same weekend.
All but one of the gay male victims was African American. One of the gay victims, Gaurav Gopalan, 35, who was found dead Sept. 10, 2011 on a sidewalk in the 2600 block of 11th Street, N.W. about 5:20 a.m., was a native of India. Police said the cause of death was blunt force trauma to the head.
Devin Barrington-Ward, president of Impulse Group D.C., a local organization that provides entertainment and AIDS education services for black gay men, said Mickens-Murrey was a regular participant of the group’s events and friends with several of its members.
Barrington-Ward said he is especially troubled that virtually all of the unsolved murder cases involved victims who were people of color.
“Many of us feel very strongly that if these victims were white, that their cases would be solved and their killers brought to justice,” he said.
“D.C. area police could do a much better job of publicizing these murder cases and the rewards for information that could lead to arrest and conviction of those responsible,” Barrington-Ward said. Police, among other things, “could be using social media and dating apps like Jack’d and Grindr to get the word out about these unsolved cases,” he continued.
“There needs to be respectful and lawful engagement by the police with LGBTQ people of color to secure justice in these cases,” he said.
He said he was also troubled that local and national LGBT organizations for the most part haven’t spoken out aggressively enough, if at all, about the unsolved gay and trans murders and whether police were doing enough to solve the cases.
David Mariner, executive director of the D.C. Center for the LGBT Community, said the Center has posted police fliers in the center’s office that have announced nearly all of the unsolved gay and trans murders and that include photos of the victims. But the Center’s D.C. Anti-Violence Project, which works to curtail anti-LGBT violence in the city, has not released a public statement to draw attention to the unsolved murders, a development that Barrington-Ward says is indicative of the apparent failure of most LGBT organizations to respond to the murders.
Arrests made in 6 trans murders
D.C. police spokesperson Schaerr Reid told the Blade that the Homicide Branch secured arrests in six transgender murders that occurred in D.C. since the year 2000. Five of the victims in those cases were African-American trans women and one was a Latina transgender woman.
The only known gay-related murder in D.C. since 2000 that police have closed involved the widely publicized stabbing death of D.C. attorney David Messerschmitt, 30, in his room at the upscale Donovan Hotel on Feb. 9, 2015.
Messerschmitt, who was white, was married to a woman who reported him missing when he didn’t return home after spending the day at his law office. Court records show that police found through their investigation that he posted an ad on a gay male hookup site seeking a male sex partner and rented the hotel room to engage in what he thought would be a gay tryst after he got off work and before returning home to his wife.
The investigation found that a 21-year-old D.C. woman named Jamyra Gallmon answered the ad by pretending she was a man and made arrangements to meet Messerschmitt for sex at his hotel room. A police arrest affidavit filed in court says Gallmon and her girlfriend, Dominique Johnson, 19, conspired to arrange for Gallmon to rob Messerschmitt.
Following her arrest, Gallmon pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and confessed to having stabbed Messerschmitt when he “fought back” at the time she attempted to rob him. Police said Gallmon stabbed Messerschmitt seven times – in the abdomen, groin and heart. She was sentenced to 24 years in prison. Johnson, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit robbery, was sentenced to six months in jail.
Police have not officially listed the Messerschmitt murder as a gay case, raising concern among some activists that police may be downplaying the longstanding phenomenon of gay “pickup” murders.
Law enforcement experts in D.C. and other cities have said such murders are not hate crimes but crimes of opportunity in which a perpetrator targets a gay man for robbery by pretending to be interested in sex as a means of getting invited to the victim’s home or other meeting place. Such schemes sometimes result in a murder like the Messerschmitt case, law enforcement experts familiar with those cases have said.
D.C. Police Chief Peter Newsham, when asked about the unsolved trans and gay cases at a news conference last month, said the department routinely seeks to continue to release information about unsolved cases that had been released at the time the murders occurred.
“One of the things that are very beneficial to us in cold cases in particular is to highlight those cases again with the information we do have out to the public,” he said. “Because that can spur a memory or somebody may be in a different position in their life when they see that information and come forward now where they may not have otherwise done that,” Newsham said.
Homicide Branch commander Haythe said the unsolved gay and trans cases that are four years old or older are classified as “cold” cases. He said most of them are being investigated by Detective Danny Whalen, who is known as an experienced investigator who is highly knowledgeable on LGBT-related cases.
‘Tragic, heartbreaking, chilling’
In nearly all of the unsolved and solved murder cases of transgender women in D.C. since 2000, police have identified them by their male birth names, with their female names placed in quotation marks or parentheses. This practice has troubled transgender activists, who say using a birth name is disrespectful to the victims because it mischaracterizes the gender to which they identified and lived.
Police in the past have said using the birth name and changed name when known could be helpful to their investigation into crimes against transgender people because potential witnesses may only have known the victim by their birth name.
Harper Jean, director of policy for the National Center for Transgender Equality, said her organization is glad that D.C. police are continuing to take steps to solve the transgender murders. But she called the police handling of the trans victims’ named in the police reward fliers “an unfortunate step” that undermines efforts to build trust in the transgender community.
“The problem is the way in which they use somebody’s old name and their adopted name using AKAs, parentheses or quotation marks for their adopted name,” Jean said. “Even if somebody was never able to legally change their name, treating their old male name as real in this way and their adopted female name as an alias or nickname, as these fliers suggest, invalidates their very identity.”
Jean didn’t rule out the police use of a trans person’s old name for investigative purposes. But she said it would be more respectful to the victims and the trans community if police stated in their fliers or other literature that the victim was formerly known as or formerly went by another name and this is that other name rather than characterizing the new name as an alias.
Guillaume Bagal, president of the D.C. Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance, said GLAA has closely monitored and spoken out on LGBT-related murders in the city for many years. He said the unsolved cases since 2000 raise questions about police handling of the cases.
“These murders are tragic, heartbreaking, chilling, and frustrating in part due to the difficulty getting witnesses,” Bagal said. “But the policy of not disclosing the sexual orientation or gender identity of victims makes the task that much harder,” he said.
Bagal praised D.C. Police Chief Newsham and the department’s LGBT Liaison Unit for being “helpful and accessible” to concerns of the LGBT community. But he called on the department to respond to the unsolved gay and trans murder cases as well as the increase in anti-LGBT hate crimes reported in the city by, among other things, acknowledging “the sexual and gender minority status of the victims.”
This may not be a comprehensive list since police do not disclose sexual orientation and gender identity in all murder cases.
Tyra Henderson, 22
Beaten to death April 23, 2000
Rear of 3600 block of 11th Street, N.W.
Reward up to $25,000 offered by police
According to D.C. police, at approximately 6:26 a.m. on Sunday, April 23, 2000, 22-year-old Tyra Henderson, a transgender woman, was found beaten to death in an alley behind the 3600 block of 11th Street, N.W.
Police have released little additional information. A Washington Post story on April 29, 2000 reported that Henderson lived at the time on the 1700 block of T Street, S.E.
The Post reported that someone filed a complaint against the police and sought help from the ACLU of the National Capital Area over an allegation that police took too long to respond to a 911 call at 2:20 a.m. that someone was moaning in the alley where Henderson was found unconscious. A police spokesperson told the Post police were investigating the complaint.
In a December 2006 report on murders of transgender people in the decade from 1996 to 2006, the Gender Public Advocacy Coalition, known as Gender PAC, said Henderson had been involved in sex work.
Transgender activists have said widespread anti-trans discrimination and bias often forces trans women to engage in sex work as a means of survival.
Anyone with information about the case is asked to contact D.C. homicide detective Daniel Whalen at 202-277-9225 or the police Command Information Center at 202-727-9099. Anonymous tips can be sent by text message to 50411.
Similar to all of the unsolved murder cases profiled in this report, police are offering a reward of up to $25,000 for information leading to an arrest and conviction of the perpetrator or perpetrators responsible for the murder of each victim.
More information here.
Ukea Davis, 18, and
Stephanie Thomas, 19
Both shot to death Aug. 12, 2002
4900 block of C Street, S.E.
Reward up to $50,000 offered by police
In a development that shocked LGBT activists and city officials, transgender women Ukea Davis, 18, and her good friend Stephanie Thomas, 19, died in a hail of bullets fired by an as-yet-unidentified attacker while they sat inside Thomas’s car along the 4900 block of C Street, S.E.
Police said the incident occurred about 3:20 a.m. on Aug. 12, 2002. People familiar with the incident, including Thomas’s mother, Queen Washington, who was supportive of Thomas, said the shooting took place a short distance from Thomas’s apartment and where Davis lived as her roommate.
Sources familiar with the incident said the two teens were shot at last 10 times each by someone who pulled up next to them in a car and who appeared to have used a semiautomatic weapon.
The sources said Thomas and Davis told friends around 11:30 p.m. on the night of the murders that they were going to a nearby convenience store, possibly to a gas station, to buy cigarettes. Police have not said publicly if they learned whether the two teens had an encounter or altercation with someone at the convenience store or someplace else. But at least one witness reportedly saw a car pull up to Thomas’s car at the corner of 50th and C Streets, S.E. and fire a gun multiple times at Thomas and Davis as they sat in Thomas’s car.
According to an account of the incident by the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Winter of 2003 edition of its publication Intelligence Report, which focused on anti-transgender violence nationwide, an eyewitness told police a second car approached Thomas’s car after the initial shooting. The witness reported that a man got out of the second car and walked to Thomas’s car and saw that Davis appeared dead.
“When the man nudged Thomas’s shoulder to see if she was still alive, she moaned in confirmation,” the witness reportedly said. “But her helper fled as the first car returned,” the SPLC’s Intelligence Report says. “The gunman got out and fired more shots, making sure Thomas was dead.”
Washington, Thomas’s mother, told news media outlets that Thomas’s transition into a young woman several years earlier in a neighborhood a short distance from where the shooting occurred drew the attention of nearby residents who knew her and her family. Washington said while many accepted Thomas’s transition, others, including kids at the school Thomas attended, taunted and sometimes assaulted Thomas, prompting Thomas to quit high school before graduating.
LGBT activists organized a vigil at the site of the murders to honor the two slain trans teens and to draw attention to what they called an alarming number of instances of anti-transgender violence in D.C. around that time. Among those who attended and spoke at the vigil were then-D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams and D.C. Congressional Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton.
Many of the LGBT activists participating in the vigil said they considered the double murder a hate crime. But D.C. police, more than 15 years after the incident, say they don’t have sufficient evidence to classify the case as a hate crime and have yet to determine a motive for the killings.
Homicide Detective Daniel Whalen, a “cold case” and LGBT case expert, continues to work on the case, according to Acting Capt. Anthony Haythe, who serves as commander of the police Homicide Branch. Anyone with information about the case should contact Whalen at 202-277-9225.
More information here.
Elexuis Woodland, 23
Shot to death Dec. 2, 2005
2000 block of Savannah Terrace, S.E.
Reward up to $25,000 offered by police
D.C. police say transgender woman Elexuis Woodland, 23, a hairstylist, was fatally shot during a botched robbery that took place about 1:20 a.m. on Dec. 2, 2005 as Woodland and a male friend were walking home after purchasing food from a carryout store.
According to a police account, a gunman got out of a light blue American made car, possibly a Buick or Oldsmobile, that pulled up next to them and demanded money. Police said Woodland and the friend didn’t have any cash and the “robbery plan went haywire,” the Washington Post reported. The gunman shot and killed Woodland and shot and wounded the friend, who survived the attack.
A police flier seeking information about the incident includes an artist’s drawing of a suspect based on the description of the friend. The suspect is described as a black male in his 20s said to be 5 feet 11 inches to 6 feet tall, weighing 160-170 pounds, with a slight mustache and hair in plats or dreads.
The police flier also includes a photo of a car said to be the identical make and model from which the unknown suspect emerged.
In a profile of Woodland, the Post reports that she began transitioning as a woman at the age of 19 and was accepted by her family, which is related to Calvin Woodland Sr., Elexuis Woodland’s grandfather. Calvin Woodland was a former boxer who for many years dedicated his life to helping young people in D.C.’s sometimes troubled neighborhoods. He died of natural causes in 2000.
The Post profile says Elexuis, whose original surname was Tolliver, changed her last name to Woodland in honor of her grandfather.
Anyone with information about the case is asked to contact homicide Detective Daniel Whalen, the cold case specialist, at 202-277-9225.
More information here.
Tyli’a ‘Nana Boo’ Mack, 21
Stabbed to death Aug. 26, 2009
200 block of Q Street, N.W.
Reward up to $25,000 offered by police
LGBT activists have said they are especially concerned that the Aug. 26, 2009 murder of transgender woman Tyli’a ‘Nana Boo’ Mack, 21, remains unsolved because it occurred in broad daylight in a busy section of the city’s Shaw neighborhood where many people were on nearby streets and sidewalks.
D.C. police have classified Mack’s murder as a hate crime, according to police spokesperson Rachel Schaerr Reid. It’s the only one of the six unsolved trans murder cases and the four unsolved gay male murders featured in this story to be listed as a hate crime.
Police have said an unidentified male assailant fatally stabbed Mack on the 200 block of Q Street, N.W., about 2:38 p.m. as she was walking with a transgender female friend. People who knew the two women said they were walking to the nearby offices of the transgender advocacy and services group Transgender Health Empowerment (THE). The attacker also stabbed the friend, but her wounds, while serious, were not life threatening and she has fully recovered.
Longtime D.C. transgender rights advocate Earline Budd, who at the time worked for THE, said the friend later told her that the incident began when the friend and Mack were laughing about something as they walked past what appeared to be a child daycare center operating out of a townhouse.
According to Budd, the friend reported that a man standing in the doorway of the townhouse apparently thought that Mack and her friend were laughing at him, and he took offence. He shouted at the two trans women and called them derogatory names, possibly anti-gay names. Mack may have yelled back at him before the friend persuaded Mack to quickly walk away and continue on to the THE office.
But a short time later, Budd recalls the friend telling her, the man appeared behind Mack and appeared to have begun hitting Mack. When the friend shouted at the man to leave Mack alone he rushed over to the friend and started “hitting her,” Budd recalls the friend as saying. Seconds later the friend realized the man had stabbed her and Mack. Mack then ran along the street calling for help before she collapsed and soon lost consciousness, Budd recounted the friend as telling her.
Among those responding to the scene after police were called was then acting Lt. Brett Parson, who at the time served as director of the police Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit.
Mack was taken to Howard University Hospital, where she was pronounced dead a short time later, police said.
Budd said the friend told her she never got a good look at the attacker because she wanted to avoid a confrontation when the unidentified man acted in a hostile way toward her and Mack. Although police have declined to comment on why they haven’t released a drawing of the attacker in the Mack murder case, Budd said the friend’s claim that she couldn’t provide a detailed description of him might be one reason why police haven’t released an artist’s drawing of a suspect as they have in other unsolved trans murder cases.
Mack’s mother, Beverlyn Mack, was among those who spoke at a news conference and later at a vigil organized by LGBT activists to draw attention to Mack’s unsolved case.
“My child was born like everyone else – through a mother’s womb,” she said. “And I don’t think it’s fair for other people to take other people’s lives.”
Similar to other unsolved trans murder cases, police are asking anyone with information that may help them identify and apprehend a suspect in the Mack case to contact homicide Det. Daniel Whalen at 202-277-9225.
More information here.
Lashay Mclean, 23
Shot to death July 20, 2011
6100 block of Dix Street, N.E.
Reward up to $25,000 offered by police
D.C. police say transgender woman Lashay Mclean, 23, was found suffering from a gunshot wound in the 6100 block of Dix Street, N.E., at approximately 4:26 a.m. on Wednesday, July 20, 2011. She was pronounced dead a short time later at a nearby hospital.
Then Deputy D.C. Police Chief Diane Grooms told LGBT activists at a vigil held for Mclean July 23 at the site of the murder that homicide detectives were pursuing information provided by a witness that the fatal shooting took place shortly after two unidentified males “had some words” with Mclean in an alley shortly before she was shot.
“The motive is still not clear to us,” Grooms told the Blade after the vigil. She said that in the early stage of the investigation police had not found evidence for either a robbery or a hate crime. Now, more than six years later, police have not disclosed whether they have identified a motive or suspect in the case, only that the case remains open.
The location where Mclean was shot was well known at the time as a gathering place for transgender sex workers and the men that patronize their services. Mclean’s friends and some family members who attended the vigil acknowledged that she had been arrested the previous year on a misdemeanor charge of solicitation for prostitution at the unit block of K Street, N.E., which is also known as a location where trans sex workers congregate. Grooms, however, said investigators at the time had no evidence that the murder was prostitution related.
Transgender activists, meanwhile, expressed concern that at the time police first publicly announced Mclean’s murder they identified her in an official press release by her male birth name and did not mention the victim was a transgender woman. However, the police Special Liaison Division, which at the time had jurisdiction over the then Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit, disclosed that Mclean was a trans woman in emails it sent to community activists, including LGBT activists.
A police spokesperson told the Blade at the time that the decision not to publicly announce that Mclean was transgender was based on the department’s longstanding policy of not disclosing the sexual orientation or gender identity of a crime victim unless they have evidence that those characteristics are related to the crime.
The D.C. Trans Coalition, which was among the groups that organized the vigil for Mclean, said Mclean was a friend to many people in the LGBT community, including several D.C. Trans Coalition organizers. Mclean’s mother and several other family members attended the vigil for Mclean and said she was loved and cherished by her family.
Police say anyone with information that could help police identify a suspect should contact Det. Daniel Whalen at 202-277-9225 or the police command information center at 202-727-9099.
More information here.
Gaurav ‘GiGi’ Gopalan, 35
Sept. 10, 2011
2600 block of 11th Street, N.W.
Blunt force trauma to head
Reward up to $25,000 offered by police
Gaurav Gopalan, 35, an aerospace engineer and highly acclaimed local theater director, was found dead on the sidewalk in the 2600 block of 11th Street, N.W., about 5:20 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2011.
Friends and Bob Shaeffer, his partner of nearly five years, said he identified as a gay man over the many years they knew him. But police said when he was found unconscious on the sidewalk a short distance from his home in the Columbia Heights neighborhood, he was dressed in women’s clothes and appeared to have been carrying a pair of women’s high heel shoes.
With no identification documents found in his possession, it took police several days to track down his identity. And with no obvious signs of trauma or injury, it took authorities nearly two weeks to determine from an autopsy that the cause of death was blunt force trauma to the head. The city’s Medical Examiner ruled the death a homicide.
Police said Gopalan’s car, a gold-silver 2007 BMW 2-door sedan with a NASA sticker on the rear bumper, was seen being driven after his death. Police said it was later recovered and investigators were hoping to talk to anyone who may have seen the car during the weekend of Sept. 10-11, 2011.
Shaeffer told the Washington City Paper that on the Friday night prior to Gopalan’s murder early Saturday morning he told Shaeffer he planned to go out to some of the straight clubs on U Street, N.W. Police have said they obtained video of someone appearing to be Gopalan walking along U Street from surveillance cameras in that area. But they said employees of some of the bars in the area could not recall whether he had been to their establishments. The gay bars Town and Nellie’s are in that area.
Similar to nearly all of the unsolved murders of LGBT people since the year 2000, police told the Blade last week the case remains open and has been assigned to the Homicide Branch’s Cold Case Squad. Police have not disclosed whether they have determined a motive or identified a potential suspect in the case.
In the last months of his life Shaeffer and others who knew Gopalan said he began dressing occasionally in women’s clothes and said he was going by the name of Gigi during times when he took on a female persona.
D.C. transgender activist Earline Budd, who said she has spoken to some people who knew Gopalan, believes Gopalan may have been in the early stages of transitioning as a transgender woman. Regardless of what Gopalan’s actual gender identity was, Budd said she’s concerned that the beloved engineer and Shakespeare theater director may have been targeted because of the perception that he was a transgender woman at a time when trans women had been subjected to violent attacks in D.C.
His murder took place less than two months after transgender woman Lashay Mclean was shot to death on Dix Street, N.E. and less than a year after trans woman Tyli’a Nana Boo Mack was stabbed to death in the city’s Shaw neighborhood.
More than 200 people turned out for a vigil in Dupont Circle two weeks after his death to honor Gopalan and his life’s accomplishments. At the conclusion of the vigil participants carrying photos of Gopalan walked from Dupont Circle to the site of his murder in Columbia Heights, placing fliers and photos of him next to the sidewalk.
Anyone who may have any information that could be helpful to the investigation into Gopalan’s death is asked to contact the D.C. police Homicide Branch at 202-645-3421 or the police command information center at 202-727-9099.
More information here.
Demencio Lewis, 23
Shot to death March 13, 2014
2500 block of Sayles Place, S.E.
Reward up to $25,000 offered by police
Demencio Lewis, 23, an aspiring model, actor and rapper, was shot to death in a hail of gunfire about 11:57 p.m. on Thursday, March 13, 2014, in the 2500 block of Sayles Place, S.E., according to a D.C. police announcement of his murder.
Police said later that a witness saw four men wearing hooded sweatshirts leaving the scene of the shooting in a black Hyundai Sonata. Lewis’s mother, Sharita Lewis, told Fox 5 News that she and her son were dining together when Demencio Lewis received a call on his cell phone from someone named Chris, who was waiting to see him outside his home.
He told his mother he needed to talk to Chris and he would be right back, Fox 5 News reported. Within minutes, D.C. police officers responded to the 2600 block of Sayles Place, S.E. and found Lewis lying unconscious on the street. His mother told Fox 5 he had been shot 27 times.
She also told the TV news station that she and other members of her family believe Lewis’s status as an openly gay man may have had something to do with his death. Among other things, the family members think he was lured into a trap and killed.
Sharita Lewis told Fox 5 her son was killed at a time when he and his loved ones expected him to excel in his chosen fields of modeling and acting as well as writing.
“He was talented,” the news station quoted her as saying. “He was all over the place and then he started acting,” she said. “He was on ‘The Good Wife,’ ‘Ugly Betty,’ ‘106 & Park,’ so he did a lot of stuff.”
D.C. police Homicide Branch commander Anthony Haythe said the Lewis case remains under active investigation by the homicide detectives that worked on the case from the time the murder occurred.
Anyone with information about case is asked to contact Det. Anthony Green at 202-607-8268 or Det. Gabriel Truby at 202-270-1202. The department’s command center number, which serves as a tip line, can also be reached at 202-727-9099.
More information here.
Stephon Marquis Perkins, 21
Shot to death June 25, 2015
16th and Galen Streets, S.E.
Reward up to $25,000 offered by police
D.C. police have released few details about this case other than that Stephon Marquis Perkins, 21, was found suffering from a fatal gunshot wound near the intersection of 16th Street and Galen Street, S.E. about 3:44 a.m. on Thursday, June 25, 2015.
An employee of the D.C. LGBT community services center Casa Ruby, who identified herself only as Molly H., told the Blade that she and Perkins were close friends and that Perkins identified as gay.
“He was almost like family,” she said. “He was a kind, open-hearted person. He could be the life of the party.”
Police said that Perkins, a Maryland resident, was taken to a nearby hospital, where he was pronounced dead. A police source said the cause of death appeared to be a gunshot wound to the head.
The source, who spoke on condition of not being identified, said there was no evidence in the early stage of the investigation that the murder was a hate crime. The source said homicide detectives investigating the case spoke to Perkins’ boyfriend and consulted with the department’s Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit as part of their investigation into the murder.
Similar to the Lewis case, the Perkins case is considered active and current and is being investigated by detectives familiar with the case from the time the incident occurred. They can be reached at 202-645-9600. Tips can be left with the command center at 202-727-9099.
More information here.
Matthew Mickens-Murrey, 26
Stabbed to death May 30, 2017
5400 block of Newton Street, Hyattsville, Md.
Reward up to $25,000 offered by police
Prince George’s County, Md., police have said Matthew Mickens-Murrey, 26, was found stabbed to death inside his apartment in the 5400 block of Newton Street in an unincorporated section of the county just outside Hyattsville.
Friends and family members said Mickens-Murrey’s boss at a firm where he worked as a security guard in D.C. called P.G. County police after Mickens-Murrey didn’t show up for work. A P.G. County police statement says officers arrived at his residence about 2:40 p.m. on May 30 and found him unconscious and “suffering from trauma.” It says he was pronounced dead at the scene.
Mickens-Murrey’s mother and sister, who live in Pennsylvania, told the Washington Blade at a birthday celebration in Mickens-Murrey’s honor in D.C. on Nov. 9 that investigators told them he had been stabbed multiple times. They said police told them there were no signs of a forced entry into the apartment, leading police to believe he knew his attacker and most likely invited that person to his home.
Friends said that on the weekend preceding the murder, Mickens-Murrey had attended events associated with D.C. Black Pride, which takes place each year over the Memorial Day weekend. One of his friends, Devin Barrington-Ward, president of Impulse Group D.C., which organizes events catering to black gay men, said Mickens-Murrey was an active participant in the group’s activities.
At least one friend said Mickens-Murrey was last seen around 9 or 10 p.m. Sunday night, May 28, at the D.C. gay bar Nellie’s. The friend, Terrance Ford, said he and Mickens-Murrey also would sometimes visit the Dupont Circle area gay bars Fireplace and Cobalt and the Capitol Hill gay bar Bachelor’s Mill.
Prince George’s County Police Chief Hank Stawinski, who attended a memorial service for Mickens-Murrey, told the gathering that his investigators were pursuing excellent leads in the case.
“We do not believe this is random and we do not believe he was targeted because of his lifestyle,” Stawinski told ABC7 News.
A P.G. County police spokesperson said it would be inappropriate for police to release specific details of the investigation, including whether they were looking into the possibility that Mickens-Murrey met his killer at a gay meeting place such as a gay bar or through an online hookup site.
Anyone with information about the case is asked to contact police at HYPERLINK “tel:(301)%20772-4925”301-772-4925.
Equality Act, contorted as a danger by anti-LGBTQ forces, is all but dead
No political willpower to force vote or reach a compromise
Despite having President Biden in the White House and Democratic majorities in both chambers of Congress, efforts to update federal civil rights laws to strengthen the prohibition on discrimination against LGBTQ people by passing the Equality Act are all but dead as opponents of the measure have contorted it beyond recognition.
Political willpower is lacking to find a compromise that would be acceptable to enough Republican senators to end a filibuster on the bill — a tall order in any event — nor is there the willpower to force a vote on the Equality Act as opponents stoke fears about transgender kids in sports and not even unanimity in the Democratic caucus in favor of the bill is present, stakeholders who spoke to the Blade on condition of anonymity said.
In fact, there are no imminent plans to hold a vote on the legislation even though Pride month is days away, which would be an opportune time for Congress to demonstrate solidarity with the LGBTQ community by holding a vote on the legislation.
If the Equality Act were to come up for a Senate vote in the next month, it would not have the support to pass. Continued assurances that bipartisan talks are continuing on the legislation have yielded no evidence of additional support, let alone the 10 Republicans needed to end a filibuster.
“I haven’t really heard an update either way, which is usually not good,” one Democratic insider said. “My understanding is that our side was entrenched in a no-compromise mindset and with [Sen. Joe] Manchin saying he didn’t like the bill, it doomed it this Congress. And the bullying of hundreds of trans athletes derailed our message and our arguments of why it was broadly needed.”
The only thing keeping the final nail from being hammered into the Equality Act’s coffin is the unwillingness of its supporters to admit defeat. Other stakeholders who spoke to the Blade continued to assert bipartisan talks are ongoing, strongly pushing back on any conclusion the legislation is dead.
Alphonso David, president of the Human Rights Campaign, said the Equality Act is “alive and well,” citing widespread public support he said includes “the majority of Democrats, Republicans and independents and a growing number of communities across the country engaging and mobilizing every day in support of the legislation.”
“They understand the urgent need to pass this bill and stand up for LGBTQ people across our country,” David added. “As we engage with elected officials, we have confidence that Congress will listen to the voices of their constituents and continue fighting for the Equality Act through the lengthy legislative process. We will also continue our unprecedented campaign to grow the already-high public support for a popular bill that will save lives and make our country fairer and more equal for all. We will not stop until the Equality Act is passed.”
Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), chief sponsor of the Equality Act in the Senate, also signaled through a spokesperson work continues on the legislation, refusing to give up on expectations the legislation would soon become law.
“Sen. Merkley and his staff are in active discussions with colleagues on both sides of the aisle to try to get this done,” McLennan said. “We definitely see it as a key priority that we expect to become law.”
A spokesperson Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), who had promised to force a vote on the Equality Act in the Senate on the day the U.S. House approved it earlier this year, pointed to a March 25 “Dear Colleague” letter in which he identified the Equality Act as one of several bills he’d bring up for a vote.
Despite any assurances, the hold up on the bill is apparent. Although the U.S. House approved the legislation earlier this year, the Senate Judiciary Committee hasn’t even reported out the bill yet to the floor in the aftermath of the first-ever Senate hearing on the bill in March. A Senate Judiciary Committee Democratic aide, however, disputed that inaction as evidence the Equality Act is dead in its tracks: “Bipartisan efforts on a path forward are ongoing.”
Democrats are quick to blame Republicans for inaction on the Equality Act, but with Manchin withholding his support for the legislation they can’t even count on the entirety of their caucus to vote “yes” if it came to the floor. Progressives continue to advocate an end to the filibuster to advance legislation Biden has promised as part of his agenda, but even if they were to overcome headwinds and dismantle the institution needing 60 votes to advance legislation, the Equality Act would likely not have majority support to win approval in the Senate with a 50-50 party split.
The office of Manchin, who has previously said he couldn’t support the Equality Act over concerns about public schools having to implement the transgender protections applying to sports and bathrooms, hasn’t responded to multiple requests this year from the Blade on the legislation and didn’t respond to a request to comment for this article.
Meanwhile, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), who declined to co-sponsor the Equality Act this year after having signed onto the legislation in the previous Congress, insisted through a spokesperson talks are still happening across the aisle despite the appearances the legislation is dead.
“There continues to be bipartisan support for passing a law that protects the civil rights of Americans, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity,” said Annie Clark, a Collins spokesperson. “The Equality Act was a starting point for negotiations, and in its current form, it cannot pass. That’s why there are ongoing discussions among senators and stakeholders about a path forward.”
Let’s face it: Anti-LGBTQ forces have railroaded the debate by making the Equality Act about an end to women’s sports by allowing transgender athletes and danger to women in sex-segregated places like bathrooms and prisons. That doesn’t even get into resolving the issue on drawing the line between civil rights for LGBTQ people and religious freedom, which continues to be litigated in the courts as the U.S. Supreme Court is expected any day now to issue a ruling in Fulton v. City of Philadelphia to determine if foster care agencies can reject same-sex couples over religious objections.
For transgender Americans, who continue to report discrimination and violence at high rates, the absence of the Equality Act may be most keenly felt.
Mara Keisling, outgoing executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, disputed any notion the Equality Act is dead and insisted the legislation is “very much alive.”
“We remain optimistic despite misinformation from the opposition,” Keisling said. “NCTE and our movement partners are still working fruitfully on the Equality Act with senators. In fact, we are gaining momentum with all the field organizing we’re doing, like phone banking constituents to call their senators. Legislating takes time. Nothing ever gets through Congress quickly. We expect to see a vote during this Congress, and we are hopeful we can win.”
But one Democratic source said calls to members of Congress against the Equality Act, apparently coordinated by groups like the Heritage Foundation, have has outnumbered calls in favor of it by a substantial margin, with a particular emphasis on Manchin.
No stories are present in the media about same-sex couples being kicked out of a restaurant for holding hands or transgender people for using the restroom consistent with their gender identity, which would be perfectly legal in 25 states thanks to the patchwork of civil rights laws throughout the United States and inadequate protections under federal law.
Tyler Deaton, senior adviser for the American Unity Fund, which has bolstered the Republican-led Fairness for All Act as an alternative to the Equality Act, said he continues to believe the votes are present for a compromise form of the bill.
“I know for a fact there is a supermajority level of support in the Senate for a version of the Equality Act that is fully protective of both LGBTQ civil rights and religious freedom,” Deaton said. “There is interest on both sides of the aisle in getting something done this Congress.”
Deaton, however, didn’t respond to a follow-up inquiry on what evidence exists of agreeing on this compromise.
Biden has already missed the goal he campaigned on in the 2020 election to sign the Equality Act into law within his first 100 days in office. Although Biden renewed his call to pass the legislation in his speech to Congress last month, as things stand now that appears to be a goal he won’t realize for the remainder of this Congress.
Nor has the Biden administration made the Equality Act an issue for top officials within the administration as it pushes for an infrastructure package as a top priority. One Democratic insider said Louisa Terrell, legislative affairs director for the White House, delegated work on the Equality Act to a deputy as opposed to handling it herself.
To be sure, Biden has demonstrated support for the LGBTQ community through executive action at an unprecedented rate, signing an executive order on day one ordering federal agencies to implement the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision last year in Bostock v. Clayton County to the fullest extent possible and dismantling former President Trump’s transgender military ban. Biden also made historic LGBTQ appointments with the confirmation of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and Rachel Levine as assistant secretary of health.
A White House spokesperson insisted Biden’s team across the board remains committed to the Equality Act, pointing to his remarks to Congress.
“President Biden has urged Congress to get the Equality Act to his desk so he can sign it into law and provide long overdue civil rights protections to LGBTQ+ Americans, and he remains committed to seeing this legislation passed as quickly as possible,” the spokesperson said. “The White House and its entire legislative team remains in ongoing and close coordination with organizations, leaders, members of Congress, including the Equality Caucus, and staff to ensure we are working across the aisle to push the Equality Act forward.”
But at least in the near-term, that progress will fall short of fulfilling the promise of updating federal civil rights law with the Equality Act, which will mean LGBTQ people won’t be able to rely on those protections when faced with discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
D.C. bill to ban LGBTQ panic defense delayed by Capitol security
Delivery of bill to Congress was held up due to protocols related to Jan. 6 riots
A bill approved unanimously last December by the D.C. Council to ban the so-called LGBTQ panic defense has been delayed from taking effect as a city law because the fence installed around the U.S. Capitol following the Jan. 6 insurrection prevented the law from being delivered to Congress.
According to Eric Salmi, communications director for D.C. Council member Charles Allen (D-Ward 6), who guided the bill through the Council’s legislative process, all bills approved by the Council and signed by the D.C. mayor must be hand-delivered to Congress for a required congressional review.
“What happened was when the Capitol fence went up after the January insurrection, it created an issue where we physically could not deliver laws to Congress per the congressional review period,” Salmi told the Washington Blade.
Among the bills that could not immediately be delivered to Congress was the Bella Evangelista and Tony Hunter Panic Defense Prohibition and Hate Crimes Response Amendment Act of 2020, which was approved by the Council on a second and final vote on Dec. 15.
Between the time the bill was signed by Mayor Muriel Bowser and published in the D.C. Register under procedural requirements for all bills, it was not ready to be transmitted to Congress until Feb. 16, the Council’s legislative record for the bill shows.
Salmi said the impasse in delivering the bill to Congress due to the security fence prevented the bill from reaching Congress on that date and prevented the mandatory 60-day congressional review period for this bill from beginning at that time. He noted that most bills require a 30 legislative day review by Congress.
But the Evangelista-Hunter bill, named after a transgender woman and a gay man who died in violent attacks by perpetrators who attempted to use the trans and gay panic defense, includes a law enforcement related provision that under the city’s Home Rule Charter passed by Congress in the early 1970s requires a 60-day congressional review.
“There is a chance it goes into effect any day now, just given the timeline is close to being up,” Salmi said on Tuesday. “I don’t know the exact date it was delivered, but I do know the countdown is on,” said Salmi, who added, “I would expect any day now it should go into effect and there’s nothing stopping it other than an insurrection in January.”
If the delivery to Congress had not been delayed, the D.C. Council’s legislative office estimated the congressional review would have been completed by May 12.
A congressional source who spoke on condition of being identified only as a senior Democratic aide, said the holdup of D.C. bills because of the Capitol fence has been corrected.
“The House found an immediate workaround, when this issue first arose after the Jan. 6 insurrection,” the aide said.
“This is yet another reason why D.C. Council bills should not be subject to a congressional review period and why we need to grant D.C. statehood,” the aide said.
The aide added that while no disapproval resolution had been introduced in Congress to overturn the D.C. Evangelista-Hunter bill, House Democrats would have defeated such a resolution.
“House Democrats support D.C. home rule, statehood, and LGBTQ rights,” said the aide.
LGBTQ rights advocates have argued that a ban on using a gay or transgender panic defense in criminal trials is needed to prevent defense attorneys from inappropriately asking juries to find that a victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity or expression is to blame for a defendant’s criminal act, including murder.
Some attorneys have argued that their clients “panicked” after discovering the person against whom they committed a violent crime was gay or transgender, prompting them to act in a way they believed to be a form of self-defense.
In addition to its provision banning the LGBTQ panic defense, the Evangelista-Hunter bill includes a separate provision that strengthens the city’s existing hate crimes law by clarifying that hatred need not be the sole motivating factor for an underlying crime such as assault, murder, or threats to be prosecuted as a hate crime.
LGBTQ supportive prosecutors have said the clarification was needed because it is often difficult to prove to a jury that hatred is the only motive behind a violent crime. The prosecutors noted that juries have found defendants not guilty of committing a hate crime on grounds that they believed other motives were involved in a particular crime after defense lawyers argued that the law required “hate” to be the only motive in order to find someone guilty of a hate crime.
Salmi noted that while the hate crime clarification and panic defense prohibition provisions of the Evangelista-Hunter bill will become law as soon as the congressional review is completed, yet another provision in the bill will not become law after the congressional review because there are insufficient funds in the D.C. budget to cover the costs of implementing the provision.
The provision gives the D.C. Office of Human Rights and the Office of the D.C. Attorney General authority to investigate hate related discrimination at places of public accommodation. Salmi said the provision expands protections against discrimination to include web-based retailers or online delivery services that are not physically located in D.C.
“That is subject to appropriations,” Salmi said. “And until it is funded in the upcoming budget it cannot be legally enforced.”
He said that at Council member Allen’s request, the Council added language to the bill that ensures that all other provisions of the legislation that do not require additional funding – including the ban on use of the LGBTQ panic defense and the provision clarifying that hatred doesn’t have to be the sole motive for a hate crime – will take effect as soon as the congressional approval process is completed.
D.C. man charged with 2020 anti-gay death threat rearrested
Defendant implicated in three anti-LGBTQ incidents since 2011
A D.C. man arrested in August 2020 for allegedly threatening to kill a gay man outside the victim’s apartment in the city’s Adams Morgan neighborhood and who was released while awaiting trial was arrested again two weeks ago for allegedly threatening to kill another man in an unrelated incident.
D.C. Superior Court records show that Jalal Malki, who was 37 at the time of his 2020 arrest on a charge of bias-related attempts to do bodily harm against the gay man, was charged on May 4, 2021 with unlawful entry, simple assault, threats to kidnap and injure a person, and attempted possession of a prohibited weapon against the owner of a vacant house at 4412 Georgia Ave., N.W.
Court charging documents state that Malki was allegedly staying at the house without permission as a squatter. An arrest affidavit filed in court by D.C. police says Malki allegedly threatened to kill the man who owns the house shortly after the man arrived at the house while Malki was inside.
According to the affidavit, Malki walked up to the owner of the house while the owner was sitting in his car after having called police and told him, “If you come back here, I’m going to kill you.” While making that threat Malki displayed what appeared to be a gun in his waistband, but which was later found to be a toy gun, the affidavit says.
Malki then walked back inside the house minutes before police arrived and arrested him. Court records show that similar to the court proceedings following his 2020 arrest for threatening the gay man, a judge in the latest case ordered Malki released while awaiting trial. In both cases, the judge ordered him to stay away from the two men he allegedly threatened to kill.
An arrest affidavit filed by D.C. police in the 2020 case states that Malki allegedly made the threats inside an apartment building where the victim lived on the 2300 block of Champlain Street, N.W. It says Malki was living in a nearby building but often visited the building where the victim lived.
“Victim 1 continued to state during an interview that it was not the first time that Defendant 1 had made threats to him, but this time Defendant 1 stated that if he caught him outside, he would ‘fucking kill him.’” the affidavit says. It quotes the victim as saying during this time Malki repeatedly called the victim a “fucking faggot.”
The affidavit, prepared by the arresting officers, says that after the officers arrested Malki and were leading him to a police transport vehicle to be booked for the arrest, he expressed an “excited utterance” that he was “in disbelief that officers sided with the ‘fucking faggot.’”
Court records show that Malki is scheduled to appear in court on June 4 for a status hearing for both the 2020 arrest and the arrest two weeks ago for allegedly threatening to kill the owner of the house in which police say he was illegally squatting.
Superior Court records show that Malki had been arrested three times between 2011 and 2015 in cases unrelated to the 2021 and 2020 cases for allegedly also making threats of violence against people. Two of the cases appear to be LGBTQ related, but prosecutors with the U.S. Attorney’s Office did not list the cases as hate crimes.
In the first of the three cases, filed in July 2011, Malki allegedly shoved a man inside Dupont Circle and threatened to kill him after asking the man why he was wearing a purple shirt.
“Victim 1 believes the assault occurred because Suspect 1 believes Victim 1 is a homosexual,” the police arrest affidavit says.
Court records show prosecutors charged Malki with simple assault and threats to do bodily harm in the case. But the court records show that on Sept. 13, 2011, D.C. Superior Court Judge Stephen F. Eilperin found Malki not guilty on both charges following a non-jury trial.
The online court records do not state why the judge rendered a not guilty verdict. With the courthouse currently closed to the public and the press due to COVID-related restrictions, the Washington Blade couldn’t immediately obtain the records to determine the judge’s reason for the verdict.
In the second case, court records show Malki was arrested by D.C. police outside the Townhouse Tavern bar and restaurant at 1637 R St., N.W. on Nov. 7, 2012 for allegedly threatening one or more people with a knife after employees ordered Malki to leave the establishment for “disorderly behavior.”
At the time, the Townhouse Tavern was located next door to the gay nightclub Cobalt, which before going out of business two years ago, was located at the corner of 17th and R Streets, N.W.
The police arrest affidavit in the case says Malki allegedly pointed a knife in a threatening way at two of the tavern’s employees who blocked his path when he attempted to re-enter the tavern. The affidavit says he was initially charged by D.C. police with assault with a dangerous weapon – knife. Court records, however, show that prosecutors with the U.S. Attorney’s Office lowered the charges to two counts of simple assault. The records show that on Jan. 15, 2013, Malki pleaded guilty to the two charges as part of a plea bargain arrangement.
The records show that Judge Marissa Demeo on that same day issued a sentence of 30 days for each of the two charges but suspended all 30 days for both counts. She then sentenced Malki to one year of supervised probation for both charges and ordered that he undergo alcohol and drug testing and undergo treatment if appropriate.
In the third case prior to the 2020 and 2021 cases, court records show Malki was arrested outside the Cobalt gay nightclub on March 14, 2015 on multiple counts of simple assault, attempted assault with a dangerous weapon – knife, possession of a prohibited weapon – knife, and unlawful entry.
The arrest affidavit says an altercation started on the sidewalk outside the bar when for unknown reasons, Malki grabbed a female customer who was outside smoking and attempted to pull her toward him. When her female friend came to her aid, Malki allegedly got “aggressive” by threatening the woman and “removed what appeared to be a knife from an unknown location” and pointed it at the woman’s friend in a threatening way, the affidavit says.
It says a Cobalt employee minutes later ordered Malki to leave the area and he appeared to do so. But others noticed that he walked toward another entrance door to Cobalt and attempted to enter the establishment knowing he had been ordered not to return because of previous problems with his behavior, the affidavit says. When he attempted to push away another employee to force his way into Cobalt, Malki fell to the ground during a scuffle and other employees held him on the ground while someone else called D.C. police.
Court records show that similar to all of Malki’s arrests, a judge released him while awaiting trial and ordered him to stay away from Cobalt and all of those he was charged with threatening and assaulting.
The records show that on Sept. 18, 2015, Malki agreed to a plea bargain offer by prosecutors in which all except two of the charges – attempted possession of a prohibited weapon and simple assault – were dropped. Judge Alfred S. Irving Jr. on Oct. 2, 2015 sentenced Malki to 60 days of incarnation for each of the two charges but suspended all but five days, which he allowed Malki to serve on weekends, the court records show.
The judge ordered that the two five-day jail terms could be served concurrently, meaning just five days total would be served, according to court records. The records also show that Judge Irving sentenced Malki to one year of supervised probation for each of the two counts and ordered that he enter an alcohol treatment program and stay away from Cobalt.
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