by Jose Soto •
Banko Brown, a 24-year-old Black transgender man, is remembered as being “bold” and “funny.” Banko, who also used the surnames Brown and Paso, was a young community activist who helped assess the needs of young folks, including young trans folks, during the pandemic.
Brown was shot by a security guard outside of a San Francisco Walgreens on April 27, 2023, marking the at least 11th violent killing of a transgender or gender non-conforming person in 2023. We say “at least” because too often these deaths go unreported — or misreported.
According to a GoFundMe page created by Julia Arroyo, the co-executive director of the Young Women’s Freedom Center where Brown was working as a community organizing intern, Banko “was brilliant and made everyone laugh.” Arroyo wrote that although Banko was shy, he “made friends easily and connected deeply with others.” Banko had been part of the nonprofit organization since he was 12 years old.
According to news reports, the San Francisco Police Department responded to a report of a shooting at a Walgreens located at 825 Market Street near Fourth Street. When officers arrived at the scene, they found Banko suffering from a gunshot wound. The officers rendered aid and called for medics. Banko was transported to a nearby hospital while suffering from life-threatening injuries. He was later pronounced dead.
Different accounts claim that Banko was possibly shoplifting and on-duty security guard Michael Earl-Wayne Anthony pulled out a gun and shot at Banko. However, two separate eyewitnesses to the shooting said that the security guard had already escorted Banko out of the establishment and had returned inside, only to turn back and shoot Banko. One of the eyewitnesses, Donald Washington Jr., said that the security guard “could have used pepper spray. He could have used a baton. He’s a big dude. A gun, though? You go outside, you come back in the store, think about things for a minute. He processed it.”
On May 1, 2023, community members, friends and family members as well as activists held a rally outside of the Walgreens where Banko was killed. Anthony was initially arrested and booked into the San Francisco County Jail on the charges of homicide. However, on May 2, District Attorney Brooke Jenkins declined to file any charges against security guard Michael Earl-Wayne Anthony, who was later released from jail. The San Francisco Police Department is looking to claim self-defense for this case, according to the same news report.
At the time of his death, Banko was struggling with housing instability and had been for over a decade, according to information found in the GoFundMe page. The Young Women’s Freedom Center, where Banko was interning, is calling on Mayor London Breed to do more to house trans youth. According to The Trevor Project, over 28% of LGBTQ+ youth–including 38% of transgender girls/women and 39% of transgender boys/men–have experienced homelessness or housing instability at some point in their lives. According to the Harvey Milk LGBTQ Democratic Club based in San Francisco, trans people in San Francisco are 18 times more likely to experience homelessness than the general population.
According to Arroyo, the center’s co-executive director, Banko consistently made calls to local homeless shelters to provide shelter for himself and to meet other basic needs. “Still, instead of receiving the support he needed, at every turn, there were obstacles and endless hoops to jump through. He was criminalized and lost his life trying to survive,” Arroyo said.
More than 25,000 hate crimes in the U.S. involve a firearm each year, which equates to almost 70 cases, according to a 2022 report from Everytown for Gun Safety in partnership with HRC and The Equality Federation Support Fund, “Remembering and Honoring Pulse: Anti-LGBTQ Bias and Guns Are Taking Lives of Countless LGBTQ People.” The report also notes a marked increase in anti-LGBTQ+ hate crimes, especially against transgender people. HRC’s own tracking of fatal violence against transgender and gender non-conforming people found that between 2013 and 2022, more than two-thirds of all recorded fatalities against transgender and gender non-conforming people involved a firearm – including over three -quarters of all reported fatalities in 2022.
We must demand better from our elected officials and reject harmful anti-transgender legislation at the local, state and federal levels, while also considering every possible way to make ending this violence a reality. It is clear that fatal violence disproportionately affects transgender women of color, especially Black transgender women. The intersections of racism, transphobia, sexism, biphobia and homophobia conspire to deprive them of necessities to live and thrive, so we must all work together to cultivate acceptance, reject hate and end stigma for everyone in the trans and gender non-conforming community.
Learn more about the fatal violence cases that HRC is tracking where details are unclear. You may find a list of these cases here.
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