A 33-year-old person shot to death by a Colorado State Patrol officer in May has now been identified as a transgender woman.
Jayne Thompson of Bisbee, Ariz., was misgendered and deadnamed in most media reports immediately after her death. She was killed May 9 in Mesa County, on the western border of Colorado. There are no plans to charge the officer, Jason Wade, who said he feared for his life when Thompson came at him with a knife, according to The Daily Sentinel, a newspaper in Grand Junction.
Wade had seen Thompson standing motionless at the intersection of Highway 50 and 29 Road the morning of May 9. About two hours later, someone called the State Patrol to report she was still there, and Wade and other officers responded. Shortly after they arrived, Thompson, who did not speak during the entire interaction, reached for a knife and “lunged” at Wade with it, the officer said.
Thompson then “planted, turned and took several steps towards me with the knife extended out, at which point I shot [her], um, say three, possibly four times,” Wade said, according to the Sentinel.
Twenty-first Judicial District Attorney Dan Rubinstein announced May 20 that no charges would be filed against Wade, the paper reports. Rubinstein said he concluded that Wade defended himself against an imminent threat, and that a jury would make the same finding.
But Thompson was obviously “in crisis,” Tori Cooper, the Human Rights Campaign’s director of community engagement for the Transgender Justice Initiative, said in a blog post this week.
“In reading about the fatal shooting of Jayne Thompson by a Colorado State Trooper, two things become clear,” Cooper said. “First, it is appalling that it took the media over a month to correctly identify Jayne with her correct name and pronouns. Transgender and gender-nonconforming people deserve dignity in death as well as life. Secondly, it is clear that Jayne was in crisis when she was approached by Colorado State Patrol. When members of the community need help, the expectation is to protect and serve and not to be killed.”
Thompson, a white woman, is the second trans person known to have been killed by police this year, the first being Tony McDade, a Black trans man who died in May in Tallahassee, Fla. The officer who fatally shot McDade had said McDade pointed a gun at him, but activists have called for further investigation and for the police chief’s firing. McDade had been attacked by a group of men the previous day and was accused of fatally stabbing one of them shortly before his own death.
At least 16 trans Americans have died by violence in 2020.