Aerrion Burnett, a 37-year-old Black transgender woman, was shot to death Saturday in Independence, Mo., becoming the 27th known trans homicide victim of 2020.
Burnett, who lived in nearby Kansas City, was found dead on the side of the road about 3:40 a.m., TV station KMBC reports. It was two days before her 38th birthday.
Friends and family members held a vigil for her the next day. “Aerrion was a Barbie,” friend Korea Kelly said at the service, according to another local TV station, KCTV. “She was a goddess. Can you hear me? Fun! When I say goddess, she was everything. If you wanted to have a good day, you need to smile, Aerrion was the person you wanted by your side.”
There have been several homicides of trans women in the Kansas City area in the past few years, including Brooklyn Lindsey and Brianna Hill in 2019. And Burnett’s closest friend, Dee Dee Pearson, was killed Christmas Eve of 2011 by a man with whom she’d had sex; he didn’t learn she was trans until afterward, and he became so enraged that shot her to death. The man, Kenyan Jones, was convicted of second-degree murder and armed criminal action, and sentenced to 30 years in prison.
“As a friend, and both of those are my friends who both got killed the same way, and being a black trans woman myself, that hurts like hell,” Kelly told KCTV. “It’s a pain that I can’t fathom. It’s a pain that I don’t know how to fathom or to tell anyone how I’m feeling.”
“I find the continued news of Black trans women, and Black femme-identified members of our community, being murdered at an extreme rate to be beyond comprehension and deserving of our collective effort to bring about a dramatic and immediate end to this unique form of Black pain,” David Johns, executive director of the National Black Justice Coalition, said in a press release. “Black trans people, Black trans women in particular deserve our protection — they deserve to live without fear of being discriminated against or murdered. Until this is their reality, ensuring that they are safe is on all of us.”
“Black transgender women are being killed at horrifying rates in this country,” added Tori Cooper, director of community engagement for the Human Rights Campaign’s Transgender Justice Initiative. “HRC has already seen as many violent deaths of trans and gender-nonconforming people this year as we tracked all of last year. This level of violence is staggering, and it cannot continue. We need everyone — from community organizers to those in the highest levels of our government — to take action to end this epidemic of violence. I and everyone in the trans community are mourning Aerrion’s death. As we remember her, we continue to call for justice for all trans and gender-nonconforming people.”
Independence police are asking for anyone with information about the crime to call its tips hotline, (816) 474-TIPS. NBJC also recommended contacting the Independence Police Department “to demand a complete, fair, and public investigation” by calling (816) 325-7777 or emailing [email protected]