Transgender woman’s killing leaves family searching for answers

Published: Jun. 30, 2022 at 1:23 PM EDT
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MILWAUKEE (WTMG) – A Wisconsin family is searching for answers after a 28-year-old transgender woman was shot and killed on June 15.

At the time, police said they were looking for unknown suspects.

What led to the fatal shooting of Brazil Johnson? It’s a question that haunts Johnson’s mother and sister.

“I just don’t understand who would do something so cruel to my baby,” said Bernitha Gildart, Johnson’s mother.

No one is in custody for her death. It’s an active investigation.

Milwaukee police aren’t releasing many details of the fatal shooting.

“I wish that anybody that know anything would say something to give me and my mom closure,” said Phylicia Gildart, Johnson’s sister.

Johnson attended Rufus King High School, then studied culinary arts at Milwaukee Area Technical College.

She came out as transgender to her family seven years ago.

“When he came out, he told me, ‘This is how I was born,’ so if he’s comfortable with it, I’m comfortable with it. … And if you knew him, you’d love him, too, because he’s just that lovable person. Everybody loved him,” Bernitha Gildart said.

Investigators aren’t saying whether Johnson’s death is tied to the fact that she’s transgender.

Even so, she’s at least the 17th transgender person violently killed in the U.S. in the past six months, according to the Human Rights Campaign.

For the U.S. transgender community, 2021 was the deadliest year on record. More than 50 transgender people were killed in the U.S. last year, most of them Black and Latinx. Many of these deaths go unreported.

“I’m not going to say I’m not afraid,” said Monei Evans, an advocate who knew Johnson and who volunteered with the same LGBTQ support organization, Diverse and Resilient.

“She was always happy, always just charming and always just nice,” Evans said.

Evans and other transgender advocates vow to create a safer and more accepting Milwaukee, in honor of Johnson.

A GoFundMe account has been set up to help cover Johnson’s funeral expenses.

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