Shortly after midnight on August 17, 2013, Islan Nettles (pictured), a transgender woman from Harlem, was punched in the face, knocked to the ground and beaten to unconsciousness. She was taken to a local hospital, where she spent four days on life support before being pronounced brain dead. She was 21 years old.
Six months later, justice has not be served.
Initially, police believed that Nettles was standing with a group of friends on August 17 when 20-year-old Paris Wilson and seven other men approached them. Wilson and the men allegedly followed the women down the street, taunting them with homophobic slurs, before Wilson knocked Nettles to the ground and began beating her on the pavement.
After the beating, but before Nettles had actually died, Wilson was arrested and charged with misdemeanor assault. He was released after posting $2000 bail.
Not long after Wilson was arrested, another man came came forward and confessed to the murder. He was taken to the police station by Simone Wilson, Paris Wilson’s mother, and told police he was too drunk to remember what happened. Police believed the confession to be false and did not arrest the man, but legal complications quickly ensued.
After the confession, all charges against Wilson were dropped. Prosecutors claimed they were not prepared to bring the case before a grand jury due to the confusion over the identity of the Nettles’ attacker. Wilson’s family reportedly broke into applause when Judge Steven Statsinger announced the charges against him were being dismissed.
Today, nearly six months after the murder, both Wilson and the other man who confessed to the murder remain free, though the Manhattan District Attorney’s office claims it will continue “aggressively investigating” the case.
But not enough is being done, and there is concern the investigation has already been tainted. According to a press release from the Trans Women of Color Collective of Greater New York:
It was revealed that no DNA evidence was collected from Paris Wilson at the scene of the crime, nor were witnesses rigorously questioned. Nor has it been explained why Simone Wilson, the suspect’s mother, was never held accountable for falsifying evidence when she persuaded a friend of her son to make a false confession which was later recanted. And perhaps most inexplicably, the D.A.’s office is claiming that all 10 surveillance cameras in the vicinity of the beating that lead to Islan Nettles’ death were broken.
Last Thursday, a rally calling for justice to be served was held outside of NYPD headquarters in lower Manhattan. Over 100 people gathered in the bitter cold, holding signs and pictures of Nettles and demanding police take more action.
Scroll down to see photos from last week’s protest.
Photo credits: Jerry Levy