Waymon Hudson

Duanna Johnson found Murdered in Memphis

Filed By Waymon Hudson | November 10, 2008 4:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: Duanna Johnson, hate crimes against LGBT people, Memphis, Tennessee, transgender

Reports are coming out of Memphis, Tennessee that Duanna Johnson was found shot to death yesterday.

duanna%20johnson-thumb-220x349.jpgOur readers may remember Duanna Johnson's story- she was the black trasnwoman who was severely beaten by police in a police station while everyone, even a nurse, looked on. Johnson said former Memphis Police Officer Bridges McRae beat her after making derogatory remarks about her (calling her "faggot" and "he/she"). Another man, Officer J. Swain, held her down during the beating. Both officers were later fired from the department. Johnson was suing the city for $1.3 million in damages.

More after the jump...

From Memphis:

According to detectives, when officers arrived at the scene, they found the body lying in the street. Police say a witness heard gunfire and then saw three people running away from the scene. Investigators do not have any suspects at this time.

Lawyer Murray Wells confirmed to Eyewitness News that the person who was killed is his client Duanna Johnson. He says Johnson was often in the area where she was killed.

Murray says Johnson was trying to leave Memphis and go back to her hometown of Chicago. According to Murray, Jonson was just about homeless trying to live in Memphis. He says the apartment where Jonson was living did not have power. Murray says he was helping Johnson buy a bus ticket to Chicago.

Johnson stood up and exposed what appeared to be a pattern of abuse from the Memphis police towards the LGBT community. Her lawyer said that he received a "tremendous number" of phone calls from people who had gone through similar incidents after the video was released, with McRae and other officers.

And now she is dead. I can't even describe the feeling in the pit of my stomach over this. As Autumn Sandeen over at Pam's House Blend says:

Duanna was suing the city of Memphis for $1.3 million for that past beating -- so why don't I have a lot of faith now in the Memphis Police solving Duanna's homicide?

When will this stop? When will the mindless violence directed at our community end?

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This makes me sad.

I just emailed Waymon about this - I followed the story closely here at TBP when the video first broke. Duanna Johnson got on the national agenda when she was beaten by a police officer and held by another (she was arrested for prostitution, or, as her lawyer referred to it, "walking while trans"). The situation went from bad to worse when the police refused to take any action against the cops until the security video of that beating was released.

This weekend I was looking for info to do an update with, to see if her lawsuit against the Memphis police department was going anywhere. And then this happens.

I share the opinion of those who expect the case to remain unresolved. Poor woman.

If it's of any comfort, at least her death was carried out in a cowardly manner (shot) rather than the usual brutal, agonizing, and terrifying lynching that most T victims experience.

Did she have anyone that will fight for her case to be heard and seen?

I'm horrified. When the story broke, I remember thinking, "At least she won't be part of Transgender Day of Remembrance since she wasn't killed." *sigh* Now she will be.

I'd like to see us stay on this story and demand some thorough investigation instead of trying to get the force she was suing to properly look into it. They'd do just as good a job of investigating as they did safe guarding her civil rights. In other words, they won't do a damned thing.

I absolutely ache when I read stories like this, at a place that's so deep I don't know how to describe it.

I dislike, even more than the ache, that I don't believe that the case will matter at all to the same officers who abused her before.

This is intolerable, and it reeks of police vengeance. It calls out for a full court FBI investigation, whether the local cops like it or not. And it needs to be reported to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights with a request that they intervene.

The best way to honor Duanna Johnson and the other GLBT folks murdered this year is to tell the incoming Congress that we want the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes bill to be passed, as well as an inclusive ENDA, and that we insist on repeal of DADT and DOMA.

If not we should March on Washington and stay there until the whole package they trashed last year is passed.

Rest in Peace, sister.

That is the first thing I thought of when hearing about this tragedy; that the Memphis police were somehow involved. It just cannot be a coincidence that she is murdered while suing the city.

Bill, you and I rarely agree. But today, we are in full, 1000% agreement.

I want an ATF or FBI firearms expert on scene right now to determine ballistics. Guarantee you it'll be a Memphis police service revolver.

This is so sad! May Duanna Johnson rest in peace!

I am willing to bet the police are behind all of this.

I am so sick of our community being attacked all the time. Its about time for another Stonewall!


Another sister taken another name to be spoken on the day of remembrance.

Reformed Ascetic | November 10, 2008 5:25 PM

I realize that there are innumerable stories across the country, but I hope you will forgive me for sharing some stories from Tennessee that have been on my mind lately. Hopefully it will be apparent that my intention is not to distract or to be disrespectful of the story at hand, but to in brief paint a picture of what's going on locally.

Johnson City, TN:
A group of men were arrested in a public sex sting. Unlike the dept. history of handling similar mixed sex cases, the local police chief personally chooses to publicize the names, addresses, and even photos of the all-male group. Of the 40 arrested, several have lost their jobs and one has since committed suicide.

Recently, two men who spent the evening in one of the town's gay bars later assaulted patrons in the parking lot. As far as I am able to follow it the case is yet unsolved. Any guesses as to their intentions or how much attention the case is getting?

Scott Co., TN:
Westboro Baptist Church announced it would protest the funerals of high school cheerleaders that died in a recent motor vehicle accident. According to a poster at Knoxnews purporting to be Shirley Phelps the children were victims of God's justice due their parent's participation in the country's decline. As the "church" was planning to protest at the local high school, the county closed all the schools for the day.

Knoxville, TN:
You may remember that the Tennessee Valley Universalist Unitarian Church in Knoxville was recently the target of what I would categorize as a conservative terrorist attack. Apparently both for being liberal and for being LGBT supportive. In fact, to call the majority straight church supportive does not do them adequate justice. The gay father of an adopted transgender child was one of the heroes of the day.

Members of that same church joined with Muslim youths this weekend to urge for an end to gun violence at a local mall which had recently been the site of a shooting of a 29 year-old Muslim store clerk.

Nashville, TN:
Some large chain grocery stores recently announced they would no longer carry local LGBT newspapers.

GLAAD reported that TN's newspapers have a lower rate of allowing same-sex wedding announcements than any state in the nation (although there has been a more than ten-fold increase in the number of gay couples in TN per census data).

Anthony in Nashville | November 11, 2008 10:54 AM

Is Kroger not carrying Out and About any longer? If so, I missed that story.

Good to see another person in TN on here.

Reformed Ascetic | November 11, 2008 5:39 PM

Shortly after allowing O&A into the free distribution racks inside their locations. Korgers announced that O&A didn't meet their standards, and added mentions about community complaints.

There was a campaign using receipts from other grocery stores trying to get Out and About readmitted to Krogers. Following that the newsmag was allowed back in 8 "select" locations.

I haven't seen reports if the number of select locations has expanded since then or not.

Blaming the police and jumping to conclusions will not find the answer to who killed her. We can speculate all we want, but we need truth in justice.

It doesn't matter who they were who killed her, only that they answer for their crime. I'm sickened because of this.

GHASLTY. Evil. Vicious hateful conduct on the part of those that feel entitled.

May Duanna Rest in Peace (((hug))))

We will remember her on Transgender Day of Remembrance and every year thereafter.

This is why it is so important we challenge people every time we perceive transphobia; allowing individuals to express their transphobia allows legitimacy of violence against trans people

In Love, Peace, Solidarity & Struggle

Rest in peace, Duanna.

We will remember you at the Transgender Day of Remembrance this year and every year from now on.

Love and hugs to all of Duanna's friends from the trans community here in London (England).

Christina xx

For everything there is a season. Now is the time for our community to get angry. Now is the time for us to put down our signs with their clever words. I hate to say it, but the time for striking back in justifiable self defense is upon us. Righteous anger is at hand. I would not fault those among us who will attack those who hate us and deprive us of rights and who kill us. Those churches and governments born of exactly this type of circumstance ought to understand this and now they will have to fear it. Sadly, I think it is inevitable.

Brynn Craffey Brynn Craffey | November 10, 2008 8:08 PM

I'm very, very sad about this. It's so wrong. And they call us perverse! That anyone should be killed for their gender presentation is a travesty.

Personally, I would like to hear from someone from Memphis tell us how they are building a coalition of groups and people to ensure that there is a good investigation, that the killers are caught (this can take time as TheAmancioProject.org found out), and that the killers don't get off with mitigated punishments.

If they don't know where to start, look for my comments at pamshouseblend.com after Duanna Johnson's story.

Or they can try to effect change by just talking and posting to blogs.

So tell me, is anybody in Memphis actually taking any corrective physical actions?

By the way, whatever happened in the case of the murders of Lindgren and Hendricks in Indiana? Or have we already forgotten about them? Lindgren's obituary ran about 3 lines, and I finally gave up on trying to find Hendricks'.

-- Cathy

Anthony in Nashville | November 11, 2008 2:41 PM

Since the IN case was mentioned, the last information I heard was that there are no suspects, but they are looking for a "person of interest." The motive is still officially unclear as of now because it doesn't look like anything was stolen from the house.

The news of Duanna's murder leaves me stunned, but sad. Her life was very hard and I had hoped that things would improve for her. I guess sometimes a brush with fame brings only emptiness.

Its no consolation, but her attorney has stated he will continue her lawsuit against the Memphis Police Department

As a transgender woman I was totally shocked at the video of police brutality experienced upon Duanna a few months back. Then over the weekend the news of her death.

I agree with Lori D, “Blaming the police and jumping to conclusions will not find the answer to who killed her. We can speculate all we want, but we need truth in justice.

It doesn't matter who they were who killed her, only that they answer for their crime. I'm sickened because of this.”

Casting guilt at the Memphis Police Department no matter how inviting will get us nowhere in solving Duanna’s murder and bringing the guilty party(ies) to justice.

Unfortunately Duanna joins an all too long list of transgender women who have lost their lives to gender identity hatred this year.

Peace be with you Duanna.

Memphis Transgender Day of Remembrance
Saturday, November 22
4 pm
Tom Lee Park

RIP Duanna Johnson, Ebony Whitaker, Tiffany Berry, and Dre'Ona Blake.

HOT MESS!!! Why are people sooo evil?

TransWirral/TransWales - UK

Why does this not surprise me!! I often despair of the, so-called, human race.
RIP Duanna

Angela Brightfeather | November 13, 2008 12:33 AM

It is so hard to put into words what I feel about this murder. It is even harder for me to realize that this crime will most likely go unpunished and unsolved.
It simly breaks my heart.
We all must fight on for passage of a hate crimes bill. We cannot stop fighting.