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Suspect Charged in Shooting Death of Ga. Trans Woman, But Media and Police Still Get It Wrong

Suspect Charged in Shooting Death of Ga. Trans Woman, But Media and Police Still Get It Wrong


Keymori Shatoya Johnson was shot to death two weeks ago, but local police and media have been reluctant to publicly identify her as a trans woman and possibly consider her murder a hate crime.

Police have arrested and charged a man with involuntary manslaughter in the shooting death of 24-year-old Keymori Shatoya Johnson, a trans woman of color from Albany, Ga., reports the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs.

Johnson was shot to death in her home on West Gordon St. in the early morning hours of December 6, but police have revealed little else to media about the crime. Officials arrested 25-year-old Kuyaunnis James the same day that Johnson was killed, and have also charged him with soliciting prostitution and possession of a firearm during a crime.

However, Johnsons's mother, Carol Asberry, did open up to local news station WALB, saying that Johnson's home shows evidence of multipe gunshots being fired into a door, TV, and walls. She stated that her child had been shot twice before running in an attempt to get away. She added that Johnson did have a gun, but it was unloaded at the time of her death.

Asberry also explained to reporters that her child is trans, but that she does not want that identity become a larger factor in discussing her murder. In the end, all she wants is justice for Johnson. "I just want some answers. I just want [the murderer] to be held accountable," she told reporters.

Dougherty County District Attorney Gregory Edwards similiary told WALB that, "There is nothing about the lifestyle or gender of any person that are presented in a court of [law] that should be a factor. We can only strive as humans to do this as best we can."

This week, when asked by BuzzFeed News whether Johnson's trans identity played into her death, Albany Police Department spokesperson Phyllis Banks added, "That part remains under investigation." Two homicide detectives have reportedly been assigned to investigate the case.

As details begin to reveal themselves, NCAVP has drawn attention to the fact that local media has largely misgendered Johnson in its reporting of her death. This approach is counter to journalistic standards endorsed by the Associated Press and GLAAD that suggest reporters use a transgender person's preferred name and gender identity when reporting on them, especially in instances of violence.

Misgendering also makes it harder for readers to acknowledge that Johnson's death is part of the epidemic of fatal violence facing trans and gender-nonconforming women in the U.S. and worldwide, parituclarly trans women of color. Johnson's death is the 13th known murder of a trans woman of color in the U.S. this year, following just three days after Deshawnda Bradley was murdered in Los Angeles.

A grand jury is expected to convene on December 18 and could decide whether to indict James on the charges, but may be delayed if, according to the District Attorney, the case is not yet ready to be presented when the jury convenes.

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Mitch Kellaway