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Leaders call for tips, search continues for suspect in death of Black trans woman

Brazil Johnson
Posted at 12:06 PM, Jun 29, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-30 14:58:57-04

MILWAUKEE — A 28-year-old shot and killed in Milwaukee on June 15 has been identified as Brazil Johnson, who identified as a trans woman, according to Mayor Cavalier Johnson's office.

At the time of the shooting near Teutonia and Garfield, Milwaukee police said they were seeking unknown suspects. Police have not publicly released an update on the case.

The organizer of a GoFundMe, who identifies as Johnson's mother, said Johnson enjoyed cooking, playing video games, hanging out with friends and "just being free."

Vigil for Black trans woman killed in Milwaukee calls for justice

"He had a big heart. Unfortunately, that big heart led to his UNJUST murder. Yes, during pride month, my son, better known as Brazil Johnson, a proud member of the LGBTQIA community, was murdered by the hand of someone who didn't appreciate the light that Devon brought into their lives. My son was the victim of a hate crime, and now I have to lay my only son to rest," according to the GoFundMe.

Brazil Johnson
Brazil Johnson
Brazil Johnson
Brazil Johnson

The fundraiser aims to raise $7,000 for burial and funeral costs. Click here to learn more and donate.

Mayor Johnson said in a statement Wednesday that his office has discussed the case with police, the city’s Office of Equity and Inclusion, and with a member of our Equal Rights Commission.

“One of those victims [of rising crime] is Brazil Johnson, a 28-year-old trans woman who was shot and killed earlier this month. She was talented and loved, and the attack on her appears to be entirely unjustified," Johnson said.

“What I want is justice for Brazil Johnson. I also want an end to violence against any person victimized because of hate, discrimination, or ignorance," the mayor said. “We must recognize that this violence exists, and, collectively, we must work to stop it."

The Milwaukee Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression also issued a statement, saying:

"Johnson, a 28-year-old Black Trans woman, was murdered in the morning of June 15. Her body was found dead with multiple gunshot wounds near Teutonia Avenue and Garfield Avenue. Further evidence shows that the killer also mutilated Johnson’s body. Trans people are murdered at alarming rates in the U.S. Unfortunately, it is nearly impossible to get the exact number of murders of Trans people because, as the Milwaukee medical examiner’s office did to Johnson, the police and medical examiners often misgender them."

Milwaukee Alderwoman JoCasta Zamarripa, police and county leaders held a press conference on Thursday. She pleaded for residents to come with tips to help catch a suspect.

“It is devastating that in light of Milwaukee’s recent Pride celebrations, we are once again reminded of the harsh reality where transgender women of color suffer higher rates of violence than their straight, LGB, and white trans counterparts,” Alderwoman Zamarripa said in a statement on Wednesday. “We can and must do better to protect our most vulnerable.”

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel was the first to report on Johnson's identity.

Vigil for Johnson calls for an end to violence

A call to end violence was underway Wednesday evening near Teutonia and Garfield avenues at a vigil following Johnson's homicide.

Loved ones said she was a fierce advocate for the health and safety of the LGBT community. All those are reasons why people remembering her are hurting so much.

“Her, why? Why? Why would you do that to her? She didn’t deserve that,” said Johnson’s mother, Bernitha Gildart

According to friends and family, Johnson was an activist, fighting for LGBT equality in her short 28 years. Gildart, spoke with TMJ4 News, telling us her daughter was special.

“What did she teach you about yourself through her life?” TMJ4 asked. She replied, “To be who I am. True to myself and love one another.”

According to nonprofit Everytown For Gun Safety, there’s been 191 reported homicides of transgender people in America since January of 2017, and 73% of that number were Black women.

“I’m proud of the lives that we’re all living. I’m proud of the lives we’re all living,” said one woman at the vigil.

That woman was one of dozens of members from Milwaukee’s trans community who came out to support.

“I wanted to also memorialize her in a way that felt right for our community. I didn’t want it to feel like how other people do their thing,” said vigil organizer Ananna Ladi London. “That could’ve been any one of us, any given time and I always think of that when I’m by myself. Is that going to be me next? Is that going to be my story?”

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