Remembering Jazlynn Johnson, Trans Teen Killed In Nevada

by Jose Soto

Jazlynn Johnson, an 18-year-old transgender teenager, had an entire life ahead of her. Like any other teen, Jazlynn surely had dreams, goals, and aspirations that she was looking forward to as she came into her own. Unfortunately, Jazlynn’s life was tragically cut short on May 6, 2024, in Las Vegas, Nevada. Her death is at least the 17th violent killing of a transgender or gender expansive person in 2024, and the second to occur in Nevada, coming just one week after the death of Sasha Williams, also in Las Vegas. She is also at least the third trans or gender-expansive teenager to be killed this year. we say “at least” because, too often, these deaths go unreported — or misreported.

As a young woman coming into her own truth, her own life and her own power, society at large has been deprived of a beautiful and energetic young person growing and thriving, contributing to our world in ways unimaginable. Jazlynn should be here today, learning about the world around her and contributing to it. No young person should have their life cut short, especially through gun violence. We must do better to protect all youth, including and especially trans youth, in this country. Jazlynn’s untimely death is not just a tragedy for our transgender community, it is a tragedy all around.”

Tori Cooper, Human Rights Campaign Director of Community Engagement for the Transgender Justice Initiative

According to police reports, The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department found Johnson inside a vehicle on the morning of May 6 near Maryland Parkway in Las Vegas. Jazlynn was pronounced dead at the scene. Soon after, the Clarke County coroner’s office ruled her death a homicide. Subsequent police reports stated that the LVMPD had received a phone call from a man at around 4 a.m. and had told police that his son came home admitting to shooting “his friend.” According to the report, the man’s son came home at around 3 a.m. “hysterical and in a panic,” telling his mother that he had done something wrong and that he had shot his friend.

Evidence compiled at the scene suggested that Jazlynn was shot inside the vehicle and that the shooter likely was seated in the passenger seat. Jazlynn’s shooter has been apprehended by police and facing charges of open murder with the use of a deadly weapon and destroying or concealing evidence.

In a compounding tragedy, the initial police reports and online publications publicly shared Jazlynn’s transgender identity without consulting the family first. According to the family, who shared this information with local advocacy groups after the news of Jazlynn broke, Jazlynn was not publicly open about her transgender identity, only sharing this personal information with a few loved ones.

In May, Silver State Equality, Nevada’s statewide LGBTQ+ civil rights advocacy nonprofit, released a statement on Jazlynn’s death. In it, State Director Andre Wade said:

“Earlier this month, 18-year-old trans teen Jazlynn Johnson was shot to death in Las Vegas. Mere words lack the capacity to convey the LGBTQ+ community’s sadness at this incomprehensible violence and our deepest sympathy for Jazlynn’s family and friends. While a 17-year-old boy has been arrested and charged with murder, we urge continual investigation to determine if this can be charged as a hate crime. Crimes against transgender and gender non-conforming people – especially transgender youth of color – continue to escalate nationwide. As we grieve for Jazlynn, we must never give up hope that one day all people will live lives that are healthy, just and fully equal for all.”

Gun violence unfortunately plays an outsized role in the epidemic of fatal violence against trans people. Since HRC began tracking fatal violence against the trans community in 2013, almost 250 trans or gender-expansive people have lost their lives to gun violence–approximately 70% of all victims identified to date. Jazlynn is at least the 10th trans or gender-expansive person to die from gun violence this year. More than 25,000 hate crimes in the U.S. involve a firearm each year, which equates to almost 70 cases a day, according to a 2023 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. In 2022, the most recent year for which data is available, the FBI recorded a record-high number of hate crimes related to gender identity, including a 33% jump in hate crimes on the basis of gender identity from the year before.

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-expansive community.

More resources:

  • Learn more about the fatal violence cases that HRC is tracking where details are unclear. You may find a list of these cases here.

  • Join HRC's Count Me In campaign to take action for transgender and non-binary people.

  • Read these guidelines and this FAQ for journalists to ensure greater accuracy and respect in reporting.

Learn about how transgender and non-binary people are combating transphobia, stigma and anti-trans violence through our Celebrating Changemakers series.