Two trans people shot dead by police during mental health crises
Two trans people experiencing mental health crises were shot and killed by police in chilling incidents just a few weeks apart.
Maddie Hofmann – a 47-year-old trans woman and parent of two young children – was shot and killed by police on 19 May during a wellness check at their home in Malvern, Pennsylvania.
The Chester County District Attorney’s Office claimed the police shooting was “justified” and isn’t indicting the officers who shot Hoffman three times, leading to their death. The police report detailed a struggle over a firearm as the ‘justification’ for the shooting.
Police found Hoffman in their home experiencing a mental health crisis and yelling that they were in a “crisis situation”. Investigators said the struggle and shooting happened in less than a minute, Fox 29 reported.
Hoffman was born in Korea and raised by their adopted family in New Jersey and Vermont, according to a GoFundMe created in honour of the late trans woman.
“Maddie’s family is devastated by this loss. Nationwide, police are usually the first responders to people with mental health crises,” the campaign said.
It continued: “They are often not trained to provide proper support and the results have been deadly and devastating.
“Maddie’s family wishes to elevate this important issue so that it does not happen to another person ever again.”
Hoffman is survived by a wife and two young children.
The GoFundMe will raise funds to cover “any initial legal fees incurred to fully investigate and hold people accountable for what happened” to Hoffman; “create a scholarship fund/trust” for their kids; “mental health counseling” for Hoffman’s children; and to “start a foundation or scholarship fund for trans youth in the foster care system” in Hoffman’s name.
Just a few weeks after Hoffman’s death, another trans person was killed in a deadly encounter with police.
Jasper Aaron Lynch, 26, was having a mental health crisis when authorities were called to his McClean, Virginia home on 7 July.
Police responded to a call made by a friend who was concerned about Lynch, who went by Aaron, and his wellbeing, according to the Washington Post. It was reported that police arrived with a special unit including a person on the crisis intervention team and a clinician.
Authorities were not able to locate Lynch during their first visit, but the police return a second time. This time three officers trained in crisis intervention went into the house.
Officers encountered Lynch in the house holding a bottle and an object described as a “large decorative wooden tribal mask” in the Washington Post.
There was a back-and-forth with police, but police said Lynch “threw the mask at an officer and began to swing the bottle in a striking motion”.
One officer then fired his gun, shooting Lynch four times. Aaron was pronounced dead at the scene.
All officers involved in Lynch’s death have been placed on restricted duty, and an administrative investigation by the police is pending, according to the Washington Post.
Lynch’s parents condemned their son’s death in a statement released to local media, saying the shooting “cannot be justified”.
The parents said Lynch was “experiencing a severe mental health crisis” and was “scared”, asking for “both of the 911 calls that were made that day”. His parents believed the officers who attended the second time “could have” and “should have” “handled this far differently”.
“To respond to Aaron’s mental health crisis by shooting him at all, let alone multiple times, cannot be justified,” the parents said.
They continued: “We recognize that, at times, police officers face grave and unknown dangers in the line of duty, but that was not the case for that call at our home regarding our son.
“Aaron was about 5’ 6″, slightly built, and holding just a bottle and a decorative mask.”
The parents said they were mourning the “heartbreaking loss of [their] son and are left with only memories and regret”. They hoped their “efforts to find out more about this incident will, in the future, help families in similar situations avoid such a tragic outcome”.
Lynch’s trans identity was only recently publicised in a report by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC).
Hoffman and Lynch are among the at least 27 trans or gender non-conforming people violently killed in 2022, according to the HRC. Sadly, the true toll of such violent deaths could be much higher as too often these deaths go unreported or misreported.
The community has mourned across 2022: Amariey Lej, Duval Princess, Cypress Ramos, Naomie Skinner, Matthew Angelo Spampinato, Paloma Vazquez, Tatiana Labelle, Kathryn “Katie” Newhouse, Kenyatta “Kesha” Webster, Miia Love Parker, Fern Feather, Ariyanna Mitchell, Raymond “Ray” Muscat, Nedra Sequence Morris, Chanelika Y’Ella Dior Hemingway, Sasha Mason, Brazil Johnson, Shawmaynè Giselle Marie, Kitty Monroe, Martasia Richmond, Keshia Chanel Geter, Cherry Bush, Marisela Castro, Hayden Davis and Kandii Redd.
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