Civil rights organizations are calling on officials in Jacksonville, Florida to do more to bring the murderers of three transgender women of color to justice.
Over a dozen advocacy groups have sent an open letter addressed to Mayor Lenny Curry, Sheriff Michael Williams, and State Attorney Melissa Nelson in the wake of the deaths of Celine Walker, Antash’a English, and Cathalina Christina James.
All three women were shot to death this year in the city, leaving some community members fearing the murders could be connected. Police have so far made no arrests, named no suspects, and are claiming there is no reason to suspect the cases are in fact linked.
Walker, 36, was found shot to death in a hotel room in February.
Celine Walker, a 36-year-old trans woman of color, was killed in Jacksonville, Flordia and misgendered by police and local media. Friends and advocates worked to ensure that her story was told.https://t.co/9NtNsvCRRU pic.twitter.com/1cTZqpYsjs
— GLAAD (@glaad) February 9, 2018
In June, English, 38, was shot while she stood between two abandoned buildings, and later died at the hospital.
Antash’a Devine Sherrington English, a 38-year-old black trans woman, has been killed in Jacksonville, Florida. English was a beloved performer at a Riverside nightclub, InCahoots. Friends describe her as “an unapologetic, bold and loyal person.” https://t.co/9NtNsvCRRU pic.twitter.com/XVGyLIxBIR
— GLAAD (@glaad) June 5, 2018
Later that month, James, 24, was also found deceased from gunshot wounds at a hotel.
Cathalina Christina James, a trans woman of color in her 20s, has been killed in Jacksonville, FL. Violence against transgender people, especially trans women of color, must stop. https://t.co/9NtNsvCRRU pic.twitter.com/dd1bW53I1a
— GLAAD (@glaad) June 28, 2018
The letter, signed by organizations including the National Center for Transgender Equality, Lambda Legal, the Human Rights Campaign, the Matthew Shepard Foundation, the National Black Justice Coalition, and 13 others, expresses “alarm at the series of unsolved murders,” and urges for taking “strong and decisive steps to respond to these crimes.”
“Further, we are troubled that for each of these three homicides, neither a suspect nor a motive has been identified,” it continues.
The letter also criticizes the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office for impeding “their own investigations by repeatedly, publicly” misgendering the victims.
“In addition to disrespecting the victims, this practice alienates the Jacksonville community and strains relationships that would prove useful in investigating these homicides,” it reads.
Officials are asked to “acknowledge the gravity of the current crisis of violence against transgender women in your community,” as well as make investigating the murders a top priority.
It also urges the consideration of possible hate crime or serial crime motivations, apologizing for misgendering victims, collaborating with federal officials to solve the cases, working with community members and LGBTQ groups, and establishing an LGBTQ community liaison for the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office.
The full letter follows.
Since February, 3 #transgender women of color have been murdered in Jacksonville, FL. No suspect or motive have been established. We've joined w/other orgs & sent a letter to officials in Jacksonville, urging them to act swiftly to address this violence. Read the full letter: pic.twitter.com/FgwwjwDlrO
— National Center for Transgender Equality (@TransEquality) July 9, 2018