Since Feburary, three black trans women have been shot to death in Jacksonville, Florida. The police are treating the murders as separate incidents, but activists aren’t so sure. Equality Florida released a statement saying that many in the community fear the culprit is a trans serial killer.
In February, Celine Walker, 36, was found shot to death in an Extended Stay America hotel. Antash’a English, 38, was murdered on June 1, and found between two abandoned homes. A week later, Cathalina Christina James, 24, was found dead in a Quality Inn.
The handling of the cases by the Jacksonville Police Department (JPD) has been criticized. The JPD repeatedly misgenders the victims; a spokesperson for the police said they do not refer to people as transgender. This misgendering is believed to have delayed investigation of the crime, as they were asking about her using her dead name — her name assigned at birth rather than her chosen name — which isn’t how most people knew her. Many people didn’t even know her dead name.
The JPD has said they don’t believe the murders are linked, despite similarities in all three cases. It’s worth noting that Toronto serial killer Bruce McArthur was able to keep murdering people for so long because police refused to link the cases. McArthur has now been linked with cases dating back to 2010; he’s believed to have potentially been killing men since the 1970s. Toronto Police even blamed the LGBT community for not helping catch McArthur sooner.
Gina Duncan, Director of Transgender Equality at Equality Florida, had harsh words for the JPD.
Duncan said, “The transgender community in Jacksonville is frightened. They fear this could be a serial killer or orchestrated violence targeting the community. They do not feel protected on their own streets. By misgendering these transgender women, the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office disrespects their memory and impedes their own investigations. These are out, trans women and that is how they are known in the community.”
Duncan added, “All across the nation, law enforcement agencies have adopted protocols for responding to anti-transgender violence. They recognize that respecting the community builds trust and creates a willingness to share information that may catch a killer.”
Kelly Pope of the Jacksonville Transgender Committee added, “During national Pride month, when others are out celebrating, our community is grieving. In fact, we are not just grieving. We are actively fearful for our own lives. We need all eyes on Jacksonville right now.”
Do you think there’s a trans serial killer in Jacksonville?
Featured photo of Celine Walker courtesy of Naomi Michaels