Teen Trans Gunned Down in Florida
by Kilian Melloy
Tuesday Feb 26, 2008
Authorities are investigating the Fort Lauderdale shooting death of a male teenager who was dressed as a woman with the possibility that the murder was a hate crime in mind.
The South Florida Sun-Sentinel carried a story on Feb. 23 that reported on the shooting death of 17-year-old Simmie Williams, Jr., which took place in the early hours of Feb. 22 on Sistrunk Blvd. in Ft. Lauderdale.
The article said that Williams was wearing a dress at the time of his murder. Two men reportedly exchanged words with Williams prior to his 12:45 a.m. shooting.
Williams was taken to Broward General Medical Center, where he died.
Williams, who the story said was known locally as "Chris" or "Beyonce," was killed several miles from his home. One theory was that he was working as a prostitute, the Sun-Sentinel article said. The corner where the young man was shot is known as a locale where transgendered sex workers ply their trade.
The article cited a killing that took place in 2003 not far from where Williams was gunned down
In January of that year, Timothy Broadus, who was also known as "Cinnamon," was shot and killed on Northwest 21st Avenue. Police said Broadus had been killed after approaching a man in a car. The killing was never solved.
The victim’s mother, Denise King, was quoted in the article as saying, "I gave him $2 for the bus and he never came back."
Continued King, "He was a quiet person, kept to himself. He had a lot of friends. He wasn’t a troubled child. He was a happy person."
King said that only two days before his murder, Williams had put his name in with the federal employment skills program Job Corps.
According to King, Williams had planned to earn his GED and then pursue training in the culinary arts, the Sun-Sentinel reported.
Said King, "That’s what he really wanted to do. That’s all he talked about."
Continued King, who spoke with the media the day of the young man’s killing, "He spent the whole day with me yesterday, played with his nephew and cooked dinner."
The spokesperson for the local police, Detective Katherine Collins, said, "We’re looking into the possibility of a hate crime."
Said Collins, "There were some words exchanged prior to the shooting," though she did not offer details on the content of those words.
If the killing is determined to have been motivated by bias based on race, religion, sexuality, or other factors, it will be catalogued as a hate crime and be subject to enhanced sentencing, the Sun-Sentinel article noted.
In the case of Williams, the killing, if it was a hate crime, might have been spurred by any of several factors. Sunshine Cathedral’s dean, Grant Lynn Ford, was quoted in the Sun-Sentinel article as saying that Williams was effectively "a minority within a minority within a minority," given that he was a gay black man who cross-dressed.
Equality Florida, a GLBT equality organization, issued a news release on Feb. 25 decrying the killing and calling for meaningful anti-bullying legislation.
Nadine Smith, Equality Florida’s executive director, said, "We can be horrified, but we cannot be surprised."
Continued Smith, "Just 10 days ago, 15 year-old Lawrence King was gunned down in California."
Smith went on, "Nearly a year ago, Ryan Skipper was brutally stabbed and his body dumped on the roadside here in Florida. And a week after Ryan’s murder, 20 year-old Sean Kennedy was killed outside a gay bar in South Carolina."
Said Smith, "All of these deaths were preventable. We all must have the will to act and compel our schools and our legislature to confront the harassment and violence directed at gay and transgender young people."
According to the news release, studies nationwide suggest that those who commit hate crimes are typically male, 18-24 years of age, and have a history of bullying others in school.
The news release said that for this reason, Equality Florida supports statewide Safe Schools legislation.
The news release quoted Michael Emanuel Rajner, who co-founded Transgender Equality Rights Initiatives.
Said Rajner, "It is time we demand our government to act and implement policy to decrease the risk factors affecting LGBT youth."
Continued Rajner, "Of the 900 youth in Broward County transitional living facilities, an estimated 25% are LGBT, many have been banished from their homes simply for being LGBT."
The news release announced that a memorial for Williams would take place on Feb. 27 on the 1000 block of Sistrunk Blvd., where the young man was murdered.
A town hall meeting is also scheduled to follow, at 6:30 p.m., at the Gay & Lesbian Community Center of South Florida 1717 N. Andrews Avenue, in Fort Lauderdale. The town hall meeting will convene to address to discuss hate crimes in Florida.
The Sun-Sentinel article said that those who might have information in the killing of Williams is asked to contact Detective Mark Breen by calling 954-828-5708.
Anyone with information is also encouraged to contact Broward Crime Stoppers by calling 954-493-8477.
Kilian Melloy reviews media, conducts interviews, and writes commentary for EDGEBoston, where he also serves as Assistant Arts Editor.