A transgender woman in Jacksonville, Fla., was beaten and then dragged behind a minivan Friday, and a suspect has been charged with attempted murder.
The woman, whose name has not been made public, was tied to a Dodge Caravan and dragged for about two blocks, The Florida Times-Union reports. Police identified the victim as a man, but local LGBTQ activists said she is a trans woman.
She was hospitalized with life-threatening injuries, the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office told the media. She was found on a street after the attack, but the sheriff’s office’s Real Time Crime Center captured part of the crime in progress on video.
“The video was so graphic we can’t release it. It’s horrendous,” Assistant Chief Brian Kee told the Times-Union.
Over the weekend, sheriff’s office personnel found the van, which had been reported stolen before the assault. Evidence from the vehicle and other information led them to Eric Shaun Bridges, 34, and they arrested him Sunday evening on the attempted murder charge.
The sheriff’s office did not state a motive in the crime, but some observers said the brutality indicates it could be a hate crime. “It sounds like a hate crime, some type of revenge incident,” Ken Jefferson, a crime and safety analyst for Jacksonville’s WJXT, told the station. “Their purpose was to kill that person, evidently. If they’re … tying them to a vehicle and dragging [them] through the street, they don’t want that person to live.” Florida’s hate-crimes law does not cover crimes based on gender identity, but federal law does, in the event charges are brought in federal court.
The sheriff’s office has also made an arrest in another crime against a transgender woman — the February 2018 murder of Celine Walker, 36, who was found shot to death in a Jacksonville hotel room. Officers arrested Sean Bernard Phoenix, 21, last Thursday, and he is charged with murder and tampering with evidence, WJXT reports. Sheriff’s office personnel said he admitted to shooting Walker and selling the gun he used. They added that he had been in a relationship with Walker, but they did not provide details.
“A lot of those crimes that happen with transgender women have been made at the hands of men that they’ve been involved with,” Paige Mahogany Parks, director of operations at the Transgender Awareness Project, told the TV station. She said she hopes the arrest brings some peace to Walker’s family.
Walker was one of three transgender women murdered in Jacksonville in the first half of 2018. Antash’a English, 38, and Cathalina Christina James, 24, were both shot to death in the city in June of that year. No arrests have been made in those crimes.
But after the arrests in Walker’s murder and Friday’s attack, Parks praised the work of the sheriff’s office, posting “Yes JSO keep them coming” on Facebook. “The transgender community feel a lot safer knowing that JSO has two suspects in custody,” she told the Times-Union. “There is more work to do, but we are satisfied with the work JSO [has] done.”
At least 19 transgender Americans have been murdered this year, almost all of them Black women, after 27 known homicides in 2018. The American Medical Association has called the rash of violence against trans people an epidemic.
Constant reports of violence against our community are difficult to read, especially as we continue to face historic rates. If you or someone you know is experiencing violence, you can reach out to the Anti-Violence Project’s free bilingual (English/Spanish) national hotline at (212) 714-1141 or report online for support.