Tony McDade, a Black transgender man, was shot to death by a police officer Wednesday morning in Tallahassee, Fla.
McDade, 38, was accused of having fatally stabbed another man just minutes before his own death, the Tallahassee Democrat reports. McDade had posted a live video on Facebook saying he wanted revenge on a group of men who had beaten him the previous day, and he predicted a standoff with police. “You killed me,” he said in the live video. “I’m gonna kill you. ... I’m living suicidal right now.” Another video showed “a brutal attack” on a man purported to be McDade, according to the paper. The name of the man who was stabbed has not been released.
McDade was shot just outside an apartment complex, where stories circulated among residents that he was unarmed. But Tallahassee Police Chief Lawrence Revell said McDade had pointed a gun at the officer. Witnesses said the officer was white; his name has not been publicly released either. Revell said there was nothing to indicate the shooting was racially motivated. A grand jury will review the matter, which is a routine practice. The officer has been placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of the grand jury investigation.
McDade had been arrested several times, on charges including armed robbery and battery. He was convicted and sentenced on some charges, although others were dropped. He had just been released from prison early in January after serving time on a weapons charge, and said in the video that he was determined not to go back to prison, according to Tallahassee station WCTV. He was arrested early in May for threatening a person with a BB gun that resembled a real firearm; he always carried such a gun, according to a police report.
A memorial to McDade was set up at the apartment complex, with signs reading “Black Lives Matter” and “Justice for Tony.” One resident, Jose Picasso, told the Democrat he believed police wanted to kill McDade, who is at least the 12th transgender American to die violently this year. Friends online described him as a person with “a big heart” and noted that he was nicknamed “Tony the Tiger.”
Mayor John Dailey posted on social media that there had been a “tragic loss of lives” and that the Tallahassee Police Department would do a thorough investigation. “This comes on the heels of disturbing events around our nation that we will not ignore,” he added. “My heart goes out to the friends and families of those who lost their lives today and to the entire community that has been traumatized by today’s events.”
The other events included the killing of a Black man, George Floyd, by police officers in Minneapolis.
David Johns, executive director of the National Black Justice Coalition, issued a statement putting McDade’s death in the context of the killings of other African-Americans, including those who are LGBTQ+ or same-gender-loving, and seeking to raise awareness of hate crimes. McDade’s video showed “a horrific beating he received from five men because he is a Black trans man,” Johns said. “This tragic incident should be a reminder that hate crimes against Black LGBTQ/SGL people happen too frequently — often without the national public outcry that our cis and/or heteronormative brothers and sisters receive.”
“We don’t know a lot of the details around Tony’s death, or how police became involved,” Johns continued. “We do know that Tony should not have been killed. We must work together to raise awareness about the unique challenges that Black LGBTQ/SGL people face. It is important to highlight the too often ignored violence that members of our community face in addition to the discrimination we may experience because we are Black. We must also work to ensure that police officers understand they do not have a license to kill Black people, period.”
He called for a “full and complete investigation,” possibly resulting in the firing or decertification of the officer or officers involved, and perhaps criminal charges, along with “investing in promising and proven practices to reduce the rate at which Black people are murdered by police officers.”
“As we honor each of our siblings, including Nina Pop, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd, we must also say Tony’s name,” Johns concluded, listing recent victims. Arbery is the Black cisgender man who was shot to death near Brunswick, Ga. (three white men have been charged with his murder); Breonna Taylor is a Black cisgender woman killed by Louisville, Ky., police officers; and Pop is a Black trans woman murdered in Sikeston, Mo.
“The Human Rights Campaign and the entire transgender and nonbinary community demand accountability and answers for Tony’s death — and countless violent deaths of trans people, Black people and, disproportionately, Black transgender people. While these deaths are visible due to recordings and social media, we know far too many go completely ignored,” added Tori Cooper, HRC director of community engagement for the Transgender Justice Initiative, in a press release. “Black people, LGBTQ people, and especially all LGBTQ people of color are at greater risk for violence every day in this country. This must end. Our hearts are heavy as we mourn with Tony’s family and friends.”
The Florida chapter of Moms Demand Action and Students Demand Action, both part of Everytown for Gun Safety’s grassroots network, and the National Center for Transgender Equality also issued statements. Three-fourths of the homicides of trans and gender-nonconforming people over the past three years have been with guns, according to Everytown.
“Our hearts break for Tony’s family and friends,” said Gaby Padrón Loewenstein, a volunteer with the Florida chapter of Moms Demand Action. “While details are still emerging, Black people in America, especially those in the LGBTQ community, live with the threat of gun violence in ways that other Americans do not. Until we can ensure every member of our community is safe, there’s more work to be done.”
“Tony McDade will never get his day in court,” said Anna Logan, a student volunteer with Leon High School Students Demand Action in Florida. “This comes at a time when our country is keenly aware of the frequency of police violence against Black people in America.”
“Transgender people face extraordinary levels of physical and sexual violence, whether on the streets, at school or work, at home, or at the hands of government officials,” said Rodrigo Heng-Lehtinen, deputy executive director at the National Center for Transgender Equality. “Transgender people of color, especially Black transgender people, are often pushed into desperate circumstances due to discrimination and rejection. According to our research, more than one in four trans people has faced a bias-driven assault, and rates are higher for Black trans people. Gun violence is responsible for many deaths in the trans community, and no matter who pulls the trigger, it’s unacceptable.”