Activists to Protest NYPD’s Handling of Transwoman’s Murder

by Winnie McCroy
EDGE Editor
Tuesday Jan 28, 2014
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Activists demand justice for Islan Nettles
Activists demand justice for Islan Nettles  (Source:luzdaughtercares.com)

On Thursday, Jan. 30 at 4 p.m., a coalition of representatives from New York City human rights organizations will protest the NYPD’s negligence in the immediate aftermath of the brutal beating death of transgender woman, Islan Nettles. The protest at One Police Plaza demands an explanation by incoming NYC Police Commissioner William Bratton and the NYPD for its initial malfeasance on the case and demands a report on the current status of the homicide investigation by NY County District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr.

"The transgender and cisgender communities together call on William Bratton and the NYPD to set an example with the Islan Nettles case by committing to seeing justice served, not only for Islan Nettles, but for all victims of transphobic violence in New York City," said Brooke Cerda, founder of the Transgender/Cisgender Coalition.

Endorsers include the Transgender/Cisgender Coalition, ACT UP/NY, Luz’s Daughter Cares, Trans Women of Color Collective (TWOCC), Harlem Pride, LGBT Faith Leaders of African Descent, Strategic Trans Alliance for Radical Reform (STARR), Jamaica Anti-Homophobia Stand, Ali Forney Center, VOCAL-NY, ETNYC and Make the Road.

Several glaringly obvious breaches of procedure stand out about this case. At midnight on Aug. 17, 2013, Paris Wilson, accompanied by friends, flirted with Islan Nettles in Harlem, directly across the street from Police Service Area 6 at 2770 Frederick Douglass Boulevard, between West 147th and West 148th Street. (Public Service Area 6 covers the 24th, 26th, and 32nd Precincts.)

Upon realizing Nettles was transgender, Wilson became enraged and began to harass Nettles and her transgender companions with transphobic slurs. Wilson began punching Nettles vigorously in the face until she fell to the pavement, slamming her head on concrete, according to the NYPD. Notified by one of Nettles’ friends, police officers arrived at the scene and pulled Wilson off Nettles, who was then transported to Harlem Hospital and admitted with severe head trauma.

Officers at Police Service Area 6 did not question Nettles’ companions thoroughly and never checked on Nettles’ condition after her admittance to Harlem Hospital, according to law enforcement sources. Officers at the scene never obtained DNA evidence from Wilson’s hands. Investigations were halted until Aug. 23, when the D.A.’s office learned that Nettles was declared brain dead and removed from life support. When asked about crucial footage from the ten surveillance cameras located on the PSA 6 edifice and on surrounding structures, the D.A.’s office said all cameras were broken and no footage existed.

After the assault, Simone Wilson, mother of Paris Wilson, coerced an inebriated friend of her son to confess to the crime but he later denied the allegations, according to the NYPD. Shockingly, Simone Wilson was never held accountable for falsifying evidence or for hindering the investigation. Nettles’ friends and family also report that Simone Wilson aggressively photographed them at Harlem Hospital, as if threatening them if they filed charges.

Following a misdemeanor charge of third degree assault, Paris Wilson was immediately released from jail on a mere $2,000 bail and on Nov. 19 even that charge was dropped due to "lack of evidence." The D.A.’s office has since said it is "aggressively investigating the crime as a homicide," but no suspect or statement on the progress of the investigation has been presented in the two months since the investigation began.

The Jan. 30 protest calls for the NYPD to explain its failure to immediately and adequately investigate the crime scene, question witnesses, retain DNA samples and surveillance footage and check on Nettles’ condition, even if the crime was initially misperceived as merely an assault.

We call for the NYPD to explain why Simone Wilson has never been charged with obstruction of justice. We demand that D.A. Vance provide a status report on the investigation. Finally, we call for the NYPD to audit the 24, 26, and 32 Precincts and all city precincts for their capacity to conduct timely and unbiased investigations of this and all transphobic violent crimes.

Life expectancy for transgender women of color is 23 years, according to the Sylvia Rivera Law Project. The Trans Murder Monitoring Project reports that on average one trans person is murdered per month in the U.S., most of them women of color.

The protest will be held at 4 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 30 at One Police Plaza in Manhattan. For more information, call 718-924-3322 or visit http://luzsdaughtercares.wordpress.com/tag/justice-for-islan-nettles/

Winnie McCroy is the Women on the EDGE Editor, HIV/Health Editor, and Assistant Entertainment Editor for EDGE Media Network, handling all women’s news, HIV health stories and theater reviews throughout the U.S. She has contributed to other publications, including The Village Voice, Gay City News, Chelsea Now and The Advocate, and lives in Brooklyn, New York, where she writes about local restaurants in her food blog, http://brooklyniscookin.blogspot.com/

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