KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A Kansas City man has been arrested in the killing Monday of a transgender woman, the second to die in the city so far this year and at least the 20th across the nation, authorities said.
The Associated Press reported that Brianna "BB" Hill, 30, also of Kansas City, was shot around 11:30 a.m. Monday. Hill, who went by Breonna Be'Be Hill on Facebook, was dead when officers arrived at the scene.
Kansas City police Capt. Tim Hernandez told the AP that the alleged shooter, whose name has not been released, remained at the scene and was taken into custody. As of Wednesday, no charges had been filed, the news service said.
Hernandez said he could not discuss the motive for the shooting but said it was not related to Hill's status as a transgender woman, the AP reported.
Hill is the second transgender woman killed so far this year in Kansas City, records show. According to the Human Rights Campaign, she is the 21st transgender woman or gender nonconforming person to die by violence across the country in 2019.
The Advocate puts the nationwide number of slain transgender women at 20, however, noting some confusion about the gender identity of one victim, Jamagio Jamar Berryman.
"Transgender Americans are facing an epidemic of violence," the Advocate reported, citing 24 known killings of transgender Americans in 2018. The magazine said the number could be higher "as, undoubtedly, some victims were misgendered by police or media, or their deaths not reported at all."
"The majority of victims in any year tracked by The Advocate have been women of color," the magazine stated.
Hill, who was black, was killed the day before jury selection was set to begin in Dallas for Edward Dominic Thomas, 29, who is accused of beating another black, transgender woman, Muhlaysia Booker, in April following a fender bender outside an apartment complex in the Oak Cliff section of the city.
Booker, whose beating was caught on video, spoke publicly at a rally the week after the assault to call for justice in her case, the AP reported.
The 23-year-old was found shot to death May 18 on a Dallas street. Kendrell Lavar Lyles, 33, is charged with murder in the killing and is a suspect in the homicides of two additional women.
The Dallas Morning News reported Wednesday that Thomas' defense is arguing that Booker, who his attorneys call by her birth name and describe with male pronouns, brought the fight upon herself.
Transgender actress and activist Laverne Cox spoke to Buzzfeed earlier this year about the rash of violence against the transgender community.
"Your attraction to me as a trans woman is not a reason to kill me," Cox said in an interview on BuzzFeed News' Twitter morning show, "AM to DM." "There's this whole sort of myth that trans women are out there tricking people, that they deserve to be murdered, and that's not the case."
Berryman, who also went by Ja'leyah-Jamar Berryman, was killed last month just across the Missouri state line in Kansas City, Kansas.
Though area activists initially identified Berryman as a transgender woman, Berryman's family released a video on social media clarifying that he identified as a gender nonconforming man.
Berryman was found shot in the street around 2:30 p.m. Sept. 13 near 60th Street and Leavenworth Road, according to the Kansas City (Kansas) Police Department. Berryman died a short time later at an area hospital.
Two days later, investigators released images of a person of interest and a white 2006 Pontiac G6 connected to the case. KMBC reported that the car was found abandoned in Kansas City, Missouri, three days after Berryman was slain.
The person of interest, believed to be an ex-boyfriend of Berryman's, has not been identified by police, the Advocate said. No arrests have been reported in Berryman's death.
Berryman's cousin posted about his death on Facebook.
"Ja'leyah-Jamar didn't ask for this life," Adriana Sanders wrote, according to the magazine. "No one can control who they love. God made us to live and love and to grow. It's not our fault as a transgender woman or a homosexual man to want to live a normal life, wanting to be in love have a family, build your own legacy.
"Because a man could not accept who he was as himself and individual, he felt the need to take my cousin's life."
Berryman's obituary said he "loved the artistry of designing hair, playing his game, playing with his nieces and nephews, nagging his siblings and spending quality time with his daughter, Ja'mya (Berryman)."
Ja'mya was 5 years old when she lost her parent, KSHB in Kansas City reported.
"She keeps, like (saying), 'I want my daddy, where my daddy at?' And it's just, like, how do you answer that question to a 5-year-old?" Ronnie Gates, a friend and former longtime boyfriend of Berryman's, told the news station.
Berryman's mother, along with other family members and friends, mourned Berryman by releasing red and black balloons in his honor three days after his killing. They gathered at the intersection where he was found.
His young daughter was pictured sitting quietly on the sidewalk, wearing a backpack and gazing at the balloons near the curb.
"That's Jamar's baby. She is now without a father," a family member captioned the photo.
"I'll never be the same," Berryman's mother, Jennifer Gibson, told KSHB. "I'll never be the same."
The Human Rights Campaign, which touts itself as the nation's largest LGBTQ civil rights organization, issued a statement following Berryman's slaying.
"This epidemic of violence that disproportionately targets trans people of color -- particularly black trans women -- must cease," read a post on the organization's Twitter feed.
Likewise, HRC officials spoke out this week about Hill's killing.
"Hill, like all of us, had hopes, dreams, aspirations and plans for the future," HRC spokesperson Elliott Kozuch told Newsweek. "She had family and friends who are mourning this senseless loss, a loss that is part of a larger epidemic of violence against the transgender community in this country, spurred by a toxic mix of transphobia, racism, misogyny and unchecked gun violence."
Kozuch said while the transgender community has protections in employment, housing and public accommodations in Kansas City, there are no state nondiscrimination protections for the marginalized community.
Transgender people are also not among the groups covered by Missouri's hate crimes legislation. According to HRC data, all but five states across the country have laws addressing hate crimes, but the laws vary greatly in who they protect.
Fifteen states do not address sexual orientation or gender identity in their hate crime laws, the HRC shows.
See the Human Rights Campaign's map of hate crime laws in the U.S. below.
Members of the LGBTQ community mourned Hill's death on social media.
"Rest in power, beloved," one woman wrote on Facebook, adding a broken heart emoji. "Brianna Hill. #SayHerName."
Transgender actress, singer, teacher and activist Alexandra Billings also spoke out about Hill and every other transgender woman who has been killed or faces violence for who they are.
"My sisters, I see you," Billings wrote on Facebook. "I am with you because I am one of you, and we will survive this. Our government will not continue to ignore us, and our allies will speak up. We will revolt and we will rise. We are made of sturdy stuff. We have lived through the centuries and it will take more than a few violent men to eradicate us from the human experience.
"We are part of this world and we deserve to be here. We will not let this stand."
Besides the death of Berryman, Hill's slaying in Kansas City also comes on the heels of the June 25 killing of Brooklyn Lindsey, 32, who was found dead on the porch of an abandoned home on Spruce Avenue, court records show. She died of multiple gunshot wounds.
Neighbors, who didn't identify themselves out of fear of retaliation, told KCTV Lindsey had been badly beaten before they heard the gunshots that killed her.
According to court records, investigators recovered five shell casings from around Lindsey's body and tested the casings for DNA evidence. A profile was obtained and entered into CODIS, the FBI's Combined DNA Index System, which matched the genetic material to Marcus S. Lewis.
Investigators learned that Lewis was in a relationship with the owner of a black Chevy Impala. The car was spotted by license plate readers driving in the area of the shooting around the time that the Kansas City Police Department received a report of shots fired about four blocks from where Lindsey's body was found.
Read the probable cause statement in the Brooklyn Lindsey slaying below.
Lewis, 41, was arrested in July and indicted last month on charges of second-degree murder, armed criminal action and unlawful possession of a firearm, court records show.
Court records, which identify Lindsey as male and by her given name instead of her chosen one, show that Lewis told detectives he shot Lindsey after she propositioned him, "attempting to solicit a date," and would not leave him alone after he declined her advances.
He said he sold the gun, which he had bought earlier in the day, to an unknown person after the homicide.
"l believe that Marcus Lewis poses a danger to the community or to any other persons because he is a habitual unregistered sex offender," Detective Ryan Taylor wrote in a probable cause statement. "He is under investigation for aggravated domestic violence involving a firearm and an armed business robbery involving a firearm."
Court records indicate Lewis has also been indicted in that case. He remained in the Jackson County Jail Friday, awaiting trial.
The unlawful firearm possession charge stems from Lewis' April 1998 conviction of first-degree statutory rape, a felony in Missouri. As a convicted felon, he is not permitted to have a firearm.
Lindsey was described by friends as an activist who worked with organizations like the Kansas City Anti-Violence Project. The organization spoke out last month after Berryman's death.
"As we hold space to remember and uplift Ja'Leyah, we must also recognize the factors at play that contribute to the dramatically increased risk of violence that trans women of color, especially black trans women, face every day," a post on the group's Facebook page read. "Restrictions on basic needs and services like housing, employment, safe streets, healthcare and protection under the law are just some barriers that put our sisters in harm's way daily.
"The discriminatory and violent systems that perpetuate violence against transgender women of color are a direct result of bias from within and outside our own communities. Ja'leyah's light shone to a select few, but we will let her light shine on all of us today."
Kris Wade, with the Justice Project Kansas City, told CNN she knew Lindsey well and had helped her for more than a decade. She described Lindsey as a "sweetheart," and an intelligent woman who did not come from the streets, but sometimes ended up there.
"She felt that she had not lost her humanity out there," Wade told CNN.
Wade said Lindsey, who had been brutally beaten and hospitalized just weeks before her death, needed to get off the street, but Justice Project was unable to find her a bed.
"We didn't have any money to put her up," Wade said.
Lindsey died at the same intersection where a Hispanic transgender woman, Tamara Dominguez, 36, was run over and killed Aug. 15, 2015. The driver of the truck, Luis Sanchez, ran over Dominguez repeatedly, according to witnesses.
Members of the LGBTQ community condemned the "atrocious" act in the days after Dominguez's death.
"There's this horrible dark underbelly of hatred that goes on and on and on and on and it must stop," Caroline Gibbs, director of the Transgender Institute of Kansas City, told KCTV at the time.
Dominguez's brother, Alberto Dominguez, spoke to the news station through a friend, Juan Rendon, who translated his Spanish to English.
"He just want to say to the person that did that to her, that he (Alberto) would forgive them for what he did to her," Rendon translated as Dominguez started to cry, the news station reported. "We are not here to judge nobody, and he (Alberto) hopes that person really feels bad for what he did."
Sanchez, who was initially charged with murder, was convicted of voluntary manslaughter in December 2018 and sentenced to 18 years in prison. Now 31, he is serving his sentence at the Jefferson City Correctional Center, according to the Missouri Department of Corrections.
Tamara Dominguez was loved, her brother told KCTV.
"He doesn't know she has family. She had her mom. She had her nephews, brothers and sisters. That person didn't think about what he did," Rendon translated.
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