Over the past weekend, activists across the country have joined together to protest against police brutality and mourn the brutal death of George Floyd, a black man who died while in police custody in Minneapolis last week. In the midst of the protests, another police killing of a black man in the United States has attracted relatively little attention. Tony McDade, 38, was shot and killed by police last week in Tallahassee, Florida.
The details surrounding McDade’s death are murky. According to the Tallahassee Police Department, McDade, a trans man, was approached by police as a suspect in a stabbing that had taken place earlier in the day on May 27. Police Chief Lawrence Revelle reported that “the suspect was in possession of a handgun, and a bloody knife was found at the scene.” Yet Facebook videos taken by witnesses at the Leon Arms apartment complex appear to dispute this.
“They said ‘Stop moving, n—-r,’ and then they shot him after he stopped moving,” a resident says in a Facebook Live taken from across the street. Another witness told local news station WFSU, “I never heard, ‘Get down, freeze, I’m an officer.’ I never heard nothing. I just heard gunshots.”
In a Facebook Live recorded the night before his death, McDade says he was attacked by five people and displays his injuries in the video. He vows to get revenge on his assailants and brandishes a gun in the video, though some witnesses dispute whether he was armed on the scene of his death.
Police have not released the officer’s name due to Marsy’s Law, a Florida amendment that classifies anyone who’s allegedly had their life threatened as victims — including police officers — and ensures their right to privacy. Yet witnesses have said the officer in question was white. A press release from the TPD states that he has been placed on administrative leave.
Following McDade’s death, the TPD initially misgendered him, despite the fact that friends say he was transitioning and regularly used he/his pronouns. According to the Human Rights Campaign, McDade is the twelfth transgender or non-conforming person to be fatally shot or killed in 2020 alone. “The Human Rights Campaign and the entire transgender and non-binary community demand accountability and answers for Tony’s death — and countless violent deaths of trans people, Black people and, disproportionately, Black transgender people. While these deaths are visible due to recordings and social media, we know far too many go completely ignored,” Tori Cooper, HRC director of community engagement for the Transgender Justice Initiative, tells Rolling Stone. “Black people, LGBTQ people, and especially all LGBTQ people of color are at greater risk for violence every day in this country. This must end. Our hearts are heavy as we mourn with Tony’s family and friends.”
A GoFundMe set up for McDade’s mother Wanda has raised more than $97,000 at the time of this writing, far exceeding its initial $25,000 goal. In a statement, the director of the National Black Justice Coalition, David J. Johns, wrote, “We don’t know a lot of the details around Tony’s death, or how police became involved. We do know that Tony should not have been killed.” He urged people to call the Tallahassee Police Department at at 850-891-0000 “to register concern and to demand a complete investigation and public accounting for what happened to Tony McDade.”
“The world is watching and anticipating a full and complete investigation,” he wrote.