While activists around the county are protesting against police brutality and the publicized deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, both of whom have recently been killed by police, there’s one name that seems to be missing from a lot of the conversation.
38-year-old Tony McDade, a Black trans man was shot and killed by police — just last week — in Tallahassee, Florida.
McDade, who was initially referred to as a woman by the local news station WTXL, was allegedly wielding a gun when he was shot five times by an officer responding to an earlier attack. In a recorded press conference at the scene of the shooting, Tallahassee Police Department Chief Lawrence Revelle explained to reporters the sequence of events that transpired.
“Our officer called out, ‘Shots fired,’” Revelle said. “He said over the radio that the suspect had pointed a gun at him. The suspect was in possession of a handgun, and a bloody knife was found at the scene.”
Revelle subsequently described the suspect as a Black woman in dark clothing, despite McDade’s trans masculine identity. The suspect had been pursued for an earlier stabbing.
According to TPD, the responding police officer has been placed on administrative leave pending an investigation. The name of the responding officer has not been released to the press. When them. reached out for comment on this story, a TPD representative had no further comment beyond a press release posted the same day.
Facebook Live videos posted by residents of the Leon Arms Apartments, the community where McDade was killed, directly contradict statements made by TPD.
“[The police officer] jumped right out [of] the car and started shooting,” said resident Kim Simmons, who is later heard telling another witness that law enforcement officials “got out the car blasting.”
Another resident filming live across from Simmons exclaimed, “‘They said, ‘Stop moving, n****r!’ And then they shot him after he stopped moving.”
An eyewitness statement was provided by Leon Arms resident Clifford Butler in an interview with WSFU Media shortly after the shooting, and his recollection of events match those of others at the scene. “I never heard, ‘Get down, freeze, I’m an officer,’” he told the news station. “I never heard nothing. I just heard gunshots.”
Butler described McDade as standing still and not moving when confronted by police. He reiterated that the officer jumped out of his vehicle with a gun in hand and shot without warning while McDade stood still.
A chilling Facebook Live video posted hours before McDade’s death raises further questions about what took place. McDade said he was viciously attacked by four individuals and vowed to retaliate against the assailants. During the hour-long message, McDade spoke at length about a suicide mission in which he vowed to assault those who would attempt to prevent him from seeking revenge.
While McDade was brandishing a gun in the video, it is unclear if the weapon was in his possession at the time of his death. Multiple witnesses at Leon Arms said McDade did not have a gun in hand at the time of the shooting.
In a statement, Equality Florida Executive Director Nadine Smith said the incident is reflective of the plight of Black trans people in Florida.
“Florida is an epicenter of anti-trans violence, with seven Black transgender women having been brutally murdered over the last two years,” Smith said. “And often, these murders involve misgendering by the TPD and local media.”
Local police enforcement and news outlets have consistently deadnamed trans homicide victims. As recently as September 2019, a slain trans woman, Bee Love Slater, was both deadnamed and misgendered in reports of her death, referred to by Hendry County Sheriff’s Office as “he” in an official press release.
Outside of family members, many community members — including musician and friend Royce Hall — have verified that McDade identified as a man and used he/him pronouns.
“I know for sure he definitely addressed himself as Tony, sometimes Tony the Tiger,” Hall said in a direct message via Instagram. “He was very well known growing up, so the name assigned to him at birth began to have its own ring to it. However, he did affirm himself as Tony and as a brother. He was very intelligent and very self-aware.”
McDade used various pronouns during the aforementioned Facebook Live broadcast but frequently referred to himself as he.
Justice for Tony. Black Trans Lives Matter.
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#TonyMcDade, a Black trans man, was killed by police last week. As we cont. to fight to end police violence, we must not forget the names + lives of Black trans people. When we fight for Black lives we're fighting for all Black lives. #JusticeforTony #BlackTransLivesMatter [via @colorofchange] #blacklivesmatter #justiceforgeorgefloyd #blackouttuesday