With at least two other transgender women killed since October — including Muhlaysia Booker, whose death drew national headlines last month — and another stabbed nearly to death, Dallas police have now asked the FBI for help.
“We are concerned,” Dallas Police Chief U. Reneé Hall told reporters Monday. “We are actively and aggressively investigating this case, and we have reached out to our federal partners to assist in these efforts.”
That’s a welcome message to activists and the LGBTQ community in Dallas, where complaints have long lingered that police haven’t taken seriously a rising tide of violence against transgender women.
“These women are victims of systemic abuse, and not just violence,” Paul Kalburgi, a playwright who recently spent two years interviewing transgender women in Dallas for a play, told The Washington Post. “From health care, to legal aid, to employment and housing, those doors are often closed to transgender women and particularly transgender women of color.”
Murders have plagued the transgender community nationally, with at least 29 such homicides recorded in 2017 and at least 26 last year, according to the Human Rights Campaign. Many of those cases go unsolved.
One such killing in Dallas sparked Kalburgi’s involvement. He’d moved from his native Britain to North Texas just before 22-year-old Shade Schuler’s body was found in a Dallas field in July 2015. Horrified to learn of the rising number of homicides of transgender women, he began interviewing dozens of members of that community for a play centered on Schuler’s death.
“I learned that African American transgender women are a marginalized, often forgotten part of society,” he said.
Indeed, Schuler’s killing remains unsolved four years later. Another act of brutal violence brought the plight of Dallas’s black transgender community back onto the national radar in April. That’s when Booker, a 23-year-old transgender woman, was filmed being viciously beaten as a crowd looked on outside an apartment complex.
A 29-year-old man named Edward Thomas was later charged with aggravated assault in that attack. Booker said she felt lucky to be alive and hoped the viral video would raise awareness of the violence transgender women face. “This time, I can stand before you,” she told reporters, “whereas in other scenarios, we are at a memorial.”
Just a month later, her words proved prophetic. Booker was found shot to death in the street on May 18. Police haven’t revealed a motive or any suspects in her killing.
But three days after Booker’s death, police announced that they feared her killing may be linked to at least two other attacks on transgender women. On Oct. 21, 2018, Brittany White, 29, was fatally shot in a parked car in southeast Dallas. Six months later, an unnamed 26-year-old transgender woman was stabbed multiple times and left to die in south Dallas, though she survived.
“These cases, though not directly related at this time, do have similarities the public needs to be made aware of,” Dallas Police Maj. Vincent Weddington told reporters on May 21, noting that two of the victims had been in a similar part of Dallas, and all three either got into a car with someone or allowed someone into their car before the attacks.
Details are still slim on Lindsey’s death and investigators stressed that they’re not certain of any link to the other killings. Asked whether a single serial killer could be at work, Hall, the police chief, said that “right now, we don’t have the evidence to substantiate that.”
While national statistics are scarce, Lindsey is at least the sixth black transgender woman fatally shot to death this year across the country, according to information the Human Rights Coalition provided to the Guardian.
“It’s easy to look at these murders and to say there must be a particular gang doing this or one person,” Kalburgi told The Post. “But the fact is, murders of transgender women are still happening everywhere in the U.S.”