JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Members of Jacksonville's LGBTQ community are demanding answers after a transgender woman was murdered over the weekend, the fourth attack on a transgender woman since February.
The Jacksonville Transgender Action Committee and other organizations gathered Tuesday evening before heading to City Hall to voice their concerns about the lack of protection for transgender women.
Those who spoke with News4Jax said they feel the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office is not doing enough to make transgender people safe, citing the lack of arrests made so far in the four outstanding cases.
Organizers called for Sheriff's Office personnel to undergo sensitivity training when it comes to dealing with LGBTQ victims. Some took things a step further, calling for Sheriff Mike Williams' resignation.
Cholie Kensington, president of Stiletto Sisters Society, stood before the Jacksonville City Council Tuesday evening, asking for leaders to step up.
"“We are asking for you to be held accountable for the positions that you hold," Kensington said.
One of the transgender women killed was Kensington's close friend, Antashay English.
Paige Mahogany Parks with the Transgender Awareness Project said the cases aren't being handled properly, saying they're stagnating because they're not receiving the attention they deserve.
"If they can't do their job, why don't they give the job to someone else who can do the job?" Parks said.
She's not alone.
Avery Garner, pastor for St. Luke's Community Church, said the Sheriff's Office has demonstrated a lack of respect for transgender individuals when homicide victims are identified by their former names.
"The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office continues to disrespect the dead and the living when they misgender these individuals. These were black women," said Garner.
"We insist on the respect that they deserve," he added.
Gina Duncan, director of transgender equality at Equality Florida, echoes Garner's point of view.
"They're (JSO) causing a divide with JSO and the community by not embracing transgender policy and protocol," Duncan said. "Secondly, they're impeding their own investigations by being out in the community asking questions about a victim who is male ... when this person has been living their life authentically as a transgender female."
Kensington said a liaison is needed to mend the divide between the transgender community and JSO.
“Someone who has compassion, empathy, understanding, direction -- has a position of power and that can make a difference. That’s really what we want," Kensington said.
Attempts on Tuesday to reach the Sheriff's Office for comment on the outcry were not successful. It's worth noting a reporter contacted the public information office after business hours.
Thirteen transgender individuals, including three in Jacksonville, have been killed nationwide so far in 2018. Saturday's killing is the latest in a string of four shootings with transgender victims:
- A 24-year-old transgender woman was found dead Sunday by officers answering a report of someone shot at the Quality Inn and Suites on Dix Ellis Trail;
- A transgender woman survived being shot multiple times June 8 on West 29th Street not far from Golfair Boulevard in Northwest Jacksonville;
- Antasha English, 38, died June 1 after she was shot near a vacant home along Ella Street in Northwest Jacksonville;
- Celine Walker, 36, was shot dead Feb. 4 at the Extended Stay America on Skinner Lake Drive, near the St. Johns Town Center.
Anyone with information about any of these cases is asked to call the Sheriff's Office at (904) 630-0500. Those wishing to remain anonymous can contact Crime Stoppers at (866) 845-TIPS.