LGBTQ community demands justice after Tony McDade, a black trans man, killed by cops

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

LGBTQ advocates are calling for a full investigation and accountability into the shooting death of a black trans man by a police officer in Tallahassee, Florida, last week.

The Tallahassee Police Department said an officer was responding to a deadly stabbing incident on May 27 when they came across Tony McDade, who matched the description of the stabbing suspect, in the area. McDade allegedly pointed a gun at the officer, and the officer fatally shot him, Tallahassee Police Chief Lawrence Revell said in a press briefing following the shooting.

The death of McDade, 38, was the third fatal officer-involved shooting in the Florida capital in two months.

His death -- two days after George Floyd's while in police custody -- has sparked an outcry from advocacy groups.

"Justice cannot be served without accountability," Natishia June, the deputy field director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, said during a press briefing Monday calling for an independent investigation into his death. "The Tallahassee Police Department must be held accountable to Tony McDade's family and the community they are sworn to protect and serve."

Equality Florida Executive Director Nadine Smith told ABC News there's a pattern of police restraint against white suspects, and "zero when the person you're dealing with is black."

"The issue really comes down to this: Did the police seek to apprehend someone, or did they simply open fire because they concluded that Tony's life didn't matter?" she said.

McDade's death is believed to be at least the 12th violent death of a transgender or gender nonconforming person so far this year in the U.S., according to the Human Rights Campaign.

"The Human Rights Campaign and the entire transgender and non-binary community demand accountability and answers for Tony's death -- and countless violent deaths of trans people, black people and, disproportionately, black transgender people," Tori Cooper, HRC director of community engagement for the Transgender Justice Initiative, said in a 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."

The National Black Justice Coalition called for a "full and complete investigation" following news of McDade's death.

"We don't know a lot of the details around Tony's death, or how police became involved. We do know that Tony should not have been killed," Executive Director David J. Johns said in a statement. "We must work together to raise awareness about the unique challenges that black LGBTQ/SGL 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."

One organization, Tallahassee Community Action Committee, is calling for Revell to resign. On Wednesday, it is hosting a protest demanding he be removed as chief of police.

The outcry comes amid protests over the death of Floyd, a black man who died on Memorial Day after he was pinned down by a white Minnesota police officer. Floyd's death, along with the recent police shooting death of Breonna Taylor in Louisville, has brought attention to the institutionalized racism faced by black people, June said.

"Tony McDade should still be alive. George Floyd should be alive. Breonna Taylor should still be alive," June said. "The list of black people who have been murdered by police is too long for people to ignore."

According to Equality Florida, the state is an "epicenter" of anti-trans violence, with seven black transgender women murdered over the last two years. On Wednesday, the organization is hosting a virtual town hall on racism and injustice against the LGBTQ community.

"This is a moment of accountability," Smith said. "And it is long overdue."

The Tallahassee Police Department is currently undergoing three investigations connected to this incident: the death of the stabbing victim, the death of McDade and the officer-involved shooting itself "to see if the officer committed a criminal act," Officer Kevin Bradshaw, spokesman for the Tallahassee Police Department, told ABC News.

Bradshaw said the department is still collecting and reviewing evidence, and likely no more details will be released until the investigation goes before the grand jury. The court proceedings may be delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic, he added.

The officer who shot and killed McDade has been placed on administrative leave during the investigation, the department said. The officer's name has not been released.

On Monday, the Florida Police Benevolent Association filed a motion to withhold the name of the officer under Florida's Marsy's Law, which protects the identity of victims, according to Tallahassee ABC affiliate WTXL.

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