The Slatest

Police Charge Suspect in Murder of Dallas Transgender Woman Amid String of Killings

A protester carries a "trans rights are human rights" sign at a transgender rights rally in front of the White House.
LGBTQ activists hold a transgender rights rally in front of the White House on Oct. 22. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Dallas police have arrested a suspect in the killing of Muhlaysia Booker, a black transgender woman who was found shot to death in May amid a wave of murders of transgender women in the city.

According to police, 34-year-old Kendrell Lavar Lyles was charged with three counts of murder for the killings of Booker and two other unnamed victims, neither of whom are transgender. Police also identified Lyles as a person of interest in the killing of 26-year-old Chynal Lindsey, a transgender woman found dead in a Dallas lake in June. They have not linked him to the deaths of any other transgender women but say their investigation of the killings will continue.

Booker’s case was made famous by an incident that occurred just a few weeks before. On April 12, the 23-year-old was brutally assaulted by a different man as a crowd of bystanders watched near an apartment complex. In a video of the incident that circulated on social media, some in the crowd shouted in horror and outrage, while others yelled homophobic or transphobic slurs, and others joined the man in kicking and stomping Booker, ultimately knocking her unconscious. A group of women carried her away, and according to police, drove her to a hospital, where she was treated for bone fractures. Two days later police arrested Edward Thomas, 29, and charged him with aggravated assault. Gender identity is not considered under Texas’ hate crime laws.

There is no known connection between the assault and the killing, but the two incidents underscore the higher risk of violence black transgender women face: According to the Human Rights Campaign, at least 22 transgender people were murdered in 2018, and at least eight transgender women, all black, have been killed in 2019.

A number of these cases came out of Dallas. Before Booker was found dead from a gunshot wound near a golf course in east Dallas on May 18, Brittany White, a 29-year-old transgender woman, was found shot to death in a parked car in southeast Dallas in October. In April, an unnamed 26-year-old transgender woman was stabbed multiple times in south Dallas and presumably left to die, though she survived. Police reached out to the FBI for help after Lindsey’s death in June. The Dallas police now have four active murder investigations involving black transgender victims, with the oldest unsolved case dating back to 2015.

See also: Trystan Cotten was not prepared for the way his relationship with police would change after he transitioned in his late 30s. He tells his story here.