HRC Calls for Criminal Investigation in Case of Police Brutality Against a Transgender Woman

by HRC Staff •

WASHINGTON - The Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender civil rights organization, today called for a criminal investigation into the case of police brutality against a transgender woman. A newly released video out of Memphis, Tennessee clearly shows a police officer brutally abusing Duanna Johnson while she was held in the Shelby County Criminal Justice Center. Johnson is a transgender woman, and had been arrested on a charge of prostitution.

"This type of profound violence is the exact thing that police officers are supposed to protect people from," said HRC President Joe Solmonese. "HRC is calling for a full criminal investigation and prosecution to the fullest extent of the law."

Surveillance video of the incident shows an unidentified officer hitting Johnson several times with handcuffs wrapped around his knuckles, as another officer holds Johnson's shoulders as she tries to protect herself. After being struck repeatedly, Johnson rose up to protect herself, and was maced in response. Johnson also reports that the officers reportedly called her a "faggot" and "he-she," before and during the incident.

Video of the attack can be viewed at (warning, the violence is graphic):

News reports indicate that a copy of the tape has been reviewed by the FBI and the District Attorney's office - which has since dropped all charges against Johnson. The FBI investigation into possible civil rights violations is ongoing.

The Memphis Police Department has also reportedly fired the officer who held Johnson while she was struck, and that the officer who actually threw the punches is currently on non-enforcement status pending an administrative hearing.

Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident. Transgender Americans are often targeted for hate violence. Hate crimes against transgender people tend to be particularly violent. Bias-motivated violence against transgender people appears to be epidemic, although statistics are not collected on the incidents of violence against transgender people. Crimes against transgender people are under-investigated and under-prosecuted.

The Human Rights Campaign Foundation is America's largest civil rights organization working to achieve gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender equality. By inspiring and engaging all Americans, HRC strives to end discrimination against GLBT citizens and realize a nation that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all.

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