Dallas police have arrested a man in the fatal shooting of 23-year-old Muhlaysia Booker, a transgender woman whose death has brought renewed national attention to the perils faced by the black LGBTQ community.
On Wednesday, police announced 34-year-old Kendrell Lavar Lyles had been charged in Booker’s May 18 killing and the slayings of two other people that month. While investigating the other two killings, police learned Lyles drove the same type of car — a light-colored Lincoln LS — that Booker reportedly entered on the day of her death. Cellphone analysis placed him at the location where Booker was killed and revealed Lyles frequented the area she was last seen, police said.
Lyles has been charged with three counts of murder.
The break in Booker’s case comes as police continue to investigate killings involving at least two other transgender victims in the city. In early June, police launched a homicide investigation into the death of 26-year-old Chynal Lindsey, a transgender woman found floating in White Rock Lake in northeastern Dallas. In October, 29-year-old Brittany White was shot and killed in a parked car in southeast Dallas.
Two years ago, the remains of a 27-year-old transgender woman, Armani Dante Morgan, turned up in a field in east Oak Cliff, Dallas, according to local station KXAS-TV. Her death was ruled unexplained by the Dallas County medical examiner. In April, an unnamed 26-year-old transgender woman survived being stabbed multiple times in south Dallas.
Desperate for answers, police have called on the FBI to help with their investigation.
On Wednesday, police identified Lyles as a person of interest in Lindsey’s death but were reluctant to link him to the other cases. Max Geron, commander of the Dallas Police Department’s special investigations bureau, told reporters the other two victims Lyles is charged with killing, who have not been named, are not transgender.
Investigators have not determined a motive in the killings.
Booker’s death was widely publicized, as it came just weeks after she was viciously assaulted in downtown Dallas, leaving her with bone fractures and a possible concussion. The April 12 beating, recorded on a cellphone, shows the woman shielding her face as a man repeatedly pummels her.
Edward Thomas, 29, was arrested two days later and charged with aggravated assault. Police said at the time there was no apparent connection between the April attack and Booker’s shooting in May.
The Washington Post has previously reported that black transgender women are disproportionately likely to experience a violent attack. The Human Rights Campaign notes the vast majority of the reported 128 transgender people killed between 2013 and 2018 were women of color.
Advocates argue that a lack of explicit federal legal protections leaves this population and others in the LGBTQ community susceptible to discrimination — and in the most severe cases — death.
Deanna Paul and Tim Elfrink contributed to this report.