Police Kill Black Transgender Man in Florida

Many questions remain unanswered following the death of a transgender Black man, Tony McDade, who was killed by police in Tallahasee, Florida, on May 27.
Facebook/ Tony McDade

During a week of heightened racism targeting Black Americans, yet another Black transgender individual was killed by police — this time in Tallahassee, Florida, where Tony McDade was fatally shot by an officer on May 27.

Tallahassee police said it was shortly after 11 a.m. when they were responding to what turned out to be a fatal stabbing incident in which McDade was believed to be the assailant. But when they arrived at the scene at the 2500 block of Holton Street, cops say, McDade was holding a gun and “made a move consistent with using the firearm against an officer,” at which point an officer fatally shot McDade.

Tony McDade, misgendered by authorities, media, is at least 12th trans person to suffer violent death in 2020

It does not appear that the police account of the incident has been publicly corroborated by any witnesses and Gay City News is not able to confirm the complete story of what was a complicated altercation that has also included a disturbing pattern of misgendering in the incident’s aftermath. Both Tallahassee police and local news outlets in the area, including WCTV, repeatedly misgendered McDade, and WCTV has deliberately continued to do so even after learning his gender identity. The news outlet claimed it was doing so “because it is the name being used by Tallahassee Police.”

The misgendering caught the attention of GLAAD, which posted a tweet saying the organization is in touch with local groups and media in Tallahassee “to ensure that Tony’s identity is being accurately and respectfully covered.”

There are numerous unanswered questions about the circumstances surrounding McDade’s death as well as the death of the individual who was fatally stabbed. Among many questions include why McDade would utilize two different types of weapon in separate incidents within a short span of time.

Tallahassee police did not immediately return phone messages or emails seeking details about McDade’s death.

McDade posted an hour-plus-long video on Facebook prior to the incident during which he discussed an altercation he had with an individual, expressed frustration about police misconduct, and said he was worried about the prospect of being incarcerated again.

The killing of McDade came during a week of racist incidents nationwide that started on Memorial Day when a white woman, Amy Cooper, called the police on an out gay Black man, Christian Cooper — falsely claiming that “an African-American man is threatening me” — after he merely asked her to leash her dog in Central Park. On that same day in Minneapolis, George Floyd was killed by police officer Derek Chauvin, who shoved his knee into Floyd’s neck until and even after the man stopped moving. The week continued with protests responding to the March 13 fatal police shooting in Kentucky of a 26-year-old Black woman, Breonna Taylor, who was killed by police after they entered her home.

Following McDade’s death, organizations dedicated to LGBTQ rights and racial justice sought to raise awareness about his case while also voicing displeasure about the rising death toll of Black transgender individuals and Black Americans who have been targeted at disturbing rates. With McDade’s death, at least a dozen transgender or gender non-conforming or non-binary individuals have died violent deaths this year, with the overwhelming majority of those victims being Black transgender women.

“We don’t know a lot of the details around Tony’s death, or how police became involved,” David J. Johns, executive director of the National Black Justice Coalition, said in a written statement. “We do know that Tony should not have been killed. We must work together to raise awareness about the unique challenges that Black LGBTQ/ same-gender-loving people face. It is important to highlight the too-often ignored violence that members of our community face in addition to the discrimination we may experience because we are Black.”

Tori Cooper, the director of community engagement for the Human Rights Campaign’s Transgender Justice Initiative, said the organization and the entire transgender and non-binary community are demanding accountability and answers about McDade’s death and other slain queer individuals whose families and loved ones are still seeking justice.

“While these deaths are visible due to recordings and social media, we know far too many go completely ignored,” Cooper said in a written statement. “Black people, LGBTQ people, and especially all LGBTQ people of color are at greater risk for violence every day in this country. This must end. Our hearts are heavy as we mourn with Tony’s family and friends.”

The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Projects said in a tweet that the organization “mourns the death of Tony McDade, a Black transgender man whose life was tragically lost to police violence in Tallahassee, Florida, on May 27, 2020. Our deepest condolences to the family and friends of Tony.”

The LGBT Community Center in Manhattan also chimed in, writing in a tweet that the team there is mourning McDade’s death.

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