This terrible news comes only months after we reported shocking footage of two police officers verbally assaulting and physically beating Johnson at a downtown booking station. The two police officers responsible for the beating were eventually fired. Shortly after the beating, Johnson filed a lawsuit against the City for violating her civil rights. Johnson’s attorney says he still expects one of those officers responsible, Officer Bridges McRae, to face criminal charges – even after Johnson’s death.
Given the recent rash of transgender violence -- Johnson’s attack and a recent death we also reported on in July -- Johnson’s family “hoped and prayed that nothing bad would ever come to her.” They “always felt that Memphis wasn’t the best place for Duanna with everything that had gone on there.” According to Memphis’ ABC24-CW30, Johnson was in the process of moving back to her hometown of Chicago.
Like Tyra Hunter, Gwen Araujo, Brandon Teena and so many others, Johnson joins a tragically long list of transgender and gender non-conforming people who have met their end because of unembarrassed hatred and violence. Study after study indicates that transgender and gender non-conforming people face a higher risk of harassment, vandalism and assault. A simple visit to Remembering Our Dead, provides a disturbing snapshot of what this hatred and violence renders.
While it is not clear whether or not Johnson was the victim of a hate crime, authorities are certain that she already experienced one hate crime earlier this year because of her gender identity and expression. As such, it certainly would not be out of bounds to assume that her death is somehow related. For folks who live in or around Memphis, please note that the Memphis Police Department is asking for anyone with information about Johnson’s death to call Crime Stoppers at (901) 528-CASH.
- J. Rhodes Perry