Transgender woman killed in Memphis

Memphis (Tenn.) – A Memphis transgender woman who was preparing to sue Memphis police after a beating was shot to death late Sunday night.

Duanna Johnson, 43, was identified by her lawyer, Murray Wells.  Police say the shooting is under investigation and no arrests have been made.

Johnson made national news after she was beaten by two Memphis police officers early this year while being arrested on a prostitution charge. The beating was recorded by a jailhouse video camera and led to the firing of the two officers.

The Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition (TTPC) extended condolences to the family and friends of Duanna Johnson and called upon lawmakers to add “gender identity or expression” to Tennessee hate crime laws. 

"We consider this latest crime to be a real tragedy," said Marisa Richmond, Ph.D., president of TTPC.  "We urge any and all individuals with any information about this crime to step forward immediately so that the perpetrators can be brought to justice.  It is also time for the State of Tennessee to add 'gender identity or expression' to the Hate Crimes Enhancement Factors in Tennessee Code Annotated 40-35-114 (23), and for the Federal Government to pass the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Act.”

Two other transwomen have been murdered in Memphis. Tiffany Berry was murdered on February 16, 2006 and Ebony Whitaker was murdered on July 1, 2008.

“The Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition insists that the Feb. 16, 2006, murder of Tiffany Berry in Memphis be prosecuted aggressively and that the courts reject the anticipated 'trans panic' defense,” Richmond said. “We also urge the Memphis Police Department to step up its investigation of the July 1, 2008, murder of Ebony Whitaker.”

The Tennessee Equality Project Foundation called upon Memphis Police Chief Godwin to tell the Memphis community that the crimes against the transgender community would be prosecuted to the fullest extent. 

“The Tennessee Equality Project Foundation is deeply saddened to learn today of the brutal murder of Duanna Johnson, a transgender female living in Memphis, Tennessee,” Cox said. “The TEP Foundation urges the Memphis Police Department to do all in its power to quickly apprehend the perpetrators of Ms. Johnson's murder and calls upon Chief Godwin to send a strong public message that violence against the transgender community will prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

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