Two as yet unnamed Arizona police officers shot to death a 24-year-old transgender man in his own home on Thursday, according to a report from ABC 15 Arizona.
Kayden Clarke of Mesa, Arizona, is now the second trans person to have been killed this year. Monica Loera was the first.
Even after discovering that Clarke is a trans man, local news accounts still repeatedly misgender Clarke, identifying him as a “woman,” using his former female name, and referring to him with female pronouns.
Clarke suffered from Asperger syndrome, a form of autism in which otherwise intelligent people may lack social skills and suffer from a range of atypical behavior. According to videos on YouTube and posts on Facebook from friends that have since been deleted or marked private, Clarke also allegedly suffered a history of physical and sexual abuse as a child that left him with post-traumatic stress disorder and suicidal ideation.
On Thursday, Heather Allen, the founder of HALO Animal Rescue, an organization in Phoenix where Clarkee had volunteered since the age of 13, called the police, and asked them to perform a wellness check on the young man. Allen believed that Clarke was in danger of killing himself. When police arrived at Clarke’s home, despite “carrying stun guns,” as ABC 15 reported, officers open fired with their service weapons on Clarke.
A police spokesperson, Mesa Detective Esteban Flores said that Clarke lunged at the officers with a 12-inch kitchen knife and the officers felt so “threatened” that they chose to shoot Clarke to death instead of subdue him with their stun guns. Police have not disclosed how many shots were fired.
ABC 15 reports that, even though the incident was not diffused in a nonlethal manner, one officer had “training in crisis intervention to deal with such situations.” Both officers have been placed on desk duty pending an investigation. Mesa police did not respond to queries about the incident by press time.
“I’ve got some awesome, awesome news. So my insurance fully pays 100 percent of my gender reassignment surgery. I’m so happy. I’m excited. I’m ecstatic,” said Clarke in a YouTube video that he posted on December 14 last year to his account under his preferred name, Kayden Clarke. In posts on Facebook, friends say that they did not know why Clarke had experienced a setback on Thursday.
Clarke made headlines last year when he was featured on Huffington Post in a viral video with his service dog Samson. Clarke trained Samson to help him when he was suffering from the symptoms of Asperger syndrome. Clarke called these symptoms “melt-downs” and they involved attempts to harm himself by, for example, banging his head on walls or hitting himself.
In 2013, Clarke became known on social media when he posted a harrowing video headlined “I Can’t Fight For My Dreams Any Longer” that described how heartbroken he was to have been rejected from a vocational rehabilitation program in Glendale, Arizona, according to Clarke’s statement to an advocacy group called Everyone Matters. Clarke was at first accepted into the program that would have helped him to attend college, but then rejected for what he described as a form of discrimination based on disability:
"Today, they notified me that VR will be closing my case due to ‘We don't think you will be successful going into this field,’” said Clarke in the statement. “Obviously I had passed. I asked why. She said because of ‘your problems.’ I said, ‘You mean disability regarding years of sexual, physical emotional trauma?’ She said ‘yes, it seems like you still have issues with that.’ So basically I was denied because of my disability. Now my case is closed because of my childhood. Because of my diagnosis, everywhere I get kicked to the curb. I am detailed-oriented, which is an aspie trait. I am NOT being defiant simply because I stand there trying to process and understand your instructions due to auditory processing disorder related to Asperger’s. I'm determined, I'm the hardest worker and won't give up.”
Friends describe Clarke as unusually gifted in the training of animals. While she too misgendered him, his mother told the New York Daily News that Clarke was a generous person who donated Christmas trees to persons in-need despite being on a fixed income.