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Crime News Breaking News

Black Transgender Woman Activist Murdered, Possibly Disfigured In Milwaukee

The Milwaukee community is in shock but coming together after a beloved trans activist named Brazil Johnson was brutally murdered. Her mother believes it may have been a hate crime.

By Gina Tron
A personal photo of Brazil Johnson

A killer is still at large after a beloved Black transgender activist was brutally murdered in Wisconsin.

Brazil Johnson, 28, was shot to death on June 15 in Milwaukee, Fox 6 News reports.

Her mother believes she was killed because she was transgender. 

"For those many wounds and for someone to be disfigured like that, it was definitely a hate crime," Bernitha Gildart said at a vigil, Fox 6 Now reports. "Someone was very angry."

When asked by local ABC affiliate WISN, police refused to confirm the nature of Johnson's injuries, but her mother — who the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel noted was asked to identify her daughter's body — claims she was shot multiple times and at close range. Local transgender activist Ladi London, who founded the Black Rose Initiative and spoke at a vigil for the deceased women according to Milwaukee NPR station WUWM, alleged in a Facebook video that the killer mutilated Johnson's corpse, Them reported.

Her killer remains on the loose and the search for that person continues. 

On Friday, Milwaukee Crime Stoppers announced a reward of $28,000 for information leading to an arrest in the Johnson murder. The Milwaukee LGBT Community Center, Cream City Foundation and Milwaukee Crime Stoppers each contributed $1,000 towards the reward. Attorney Michael Hupy pledged $25,000.

Johnson is remembered as a “passionate LGBTQ+ activist, a beloved daughter and a talented chef,” the Human Rights Campaign states.

"As a Black transgender woman, Brazil Johnson represents a segment of our community that faces an epidemic of violence,” Milwaukee County District Supervisor Peter Burgelis said in a statement. “Ensuring everyone, regardless of their race or gender identity, feels safe living in Milwaukee County is of the upmost importance."

At a Thursday press conference on Thursday, Alderwoman JoCasta Zamarripa said that people in the community are "outraged to hear of the loss of a young, Black transgender woman in our city," CNN reports.

"It is devastating that in light of Milwaukee's recent Pride celebrations, we are once again reminded of the harsh reality that transgender Black and brown women suffer higher rates of violence than their straight counterparts, as well as their lesbian, gay, and bisexual counterparts," she said.

Johnson’s death means that at least 19 transgender individuals have been murdered in America in 2022, according to the Human Rights Campaign. Transgender people are four times more likely to be victims of violent crime than cisgender people, according to UCLA’s Williams Institute. The Human Rights Campaign also note that many such cases go unreported or the victims are misgendered in death. 

Johnson's mother, Gildart, told Fox 6 Now that her daughter was a “very free spirit” who “believed in herself” and “believed in others when they didn’t believe in themselves.”

"I know now that she was loved 'cause of the beautiful person that she was and I'm just happy," Gildart told WUWM at her memorial service. "I'm just so proud that she touched so many people," she said.

"We all knew Brazil," Vogue Rebel, who worked alongside Johnson for the nonprofit Diverse and Resilient in Milwaukee, told WISN. "She was a loving, smiling, sweet individual which is why it's so disheartening for some of us."

Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 414-224-8477.

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