In the wake of the tragic murder of Savannah Ryan Williams, a 38-year-old trans woman, LGBTQ+ activists in Minnesota are urging prosecutors to categorize the crime as a hate crime. Williams was fatally shot in the head at close range last month, and this week, Damarean Kaylon Bible, 25, was charged with second-degree murder in connection with the case. As Bible remains in custody with bail set at $1 million, the LGBTQ+ community is rallying for justice.
According to the criminal complaint, Bible claimed he encountered Williams at a bus shelter near a light-rail station and, during their interaction, shot her in the head. He later admitted to his father from jail that he had “just murdered someone” and expressed remorse for his actions. This devastating incident occurred near the same station where another transgender woman was severely beaten during a robbery earlier this year.
Calls for Stronger Protections
Relatives of Williams, along with supporters and leaders of the Queer Legislative Caucus, gathered at the state Capitol to mourn and advocate for stronger protections for all individuals, particularly trans women of color who are disproportionately targeted by violence. They emphasized the need to combat transphobia, which they described as rampant and deadly.
Democratic Rep. Leigh Finke, the state’s first openly transgender legislator, stated, “Transphobia is rampant in America, and it is deadly.” The Human Rights Campaign’s annual report further underscores the severity of the issue, documenting 335 deaths due to violence against transgender and gender non-conforming individuals, with Black trans women being disproportionately affected.
Addressing Legal Defenses and Expanding Protections
Amber Muhm, who was acquainted with Williams through trans support programs, called for the prohibition of the “trans panic defense” in Minnesota. This defense strategy, which blames violent actions on the victim’s sexual orientation or gender expression, remains legal in the state. Muhm also urged the 2024 Legislature to expand protections for trans youth and others.
Hennepin County Attorney Mary Moriarty, who identifies as queer, expressed her commitment to prosecuting the case appropriately. While Minnesota lacks a specific hate crime offense, it allows for longer sentences in cases motivated by bias. As investigations continue, activists and advocates are determined to seek justice for Savannah Ryan Williams and work towards a safer, more inclusive Minnesota for the LGBTQ+ community.