If you were among the crazy — or drunk — crowd that managed to handle the early morning stampede known as Black Friday, there’s a good chance that at some point during the flat screen TV rush and the toy aisle mania you felt your personal space was invaded. So much so that you might have even considered the inappropriate crushing of your limbs to be an assault. But that’s nothing compared to what trans woman Akasha Adonis and her mother faced at the Kohl’s store in Jackson, Tennessee, on Nov. 26. Not only was she brutally assaulted by “overzealous” (read: fanatical) shoppers before the store even opened, but the cops who responded to the incident lost interest when they realized they were dealing with a trans victim.
Tennessee Equality Project chairman Jonathan Cole relays what happened to Adonis — and the inaction by police that followed.
When store personnel unlocked the doors to the store, Akasha Adonis and her mother of Humboldt, TN made their way to one of four entrances where there was no line. As they were entering the store, a girl from another entrance where there was a line ran up to Akasha’s mother and another woman and attempted to ram through them into the store. When Akasha stepped between the girl and her mother to protect her, the girl jumped into Akasha’s face and began cussing at her. At the same moment, a man attacked Akasha and another woman at the entrance. The assailant hit Akasha and pulled out her hair as he pulled her through the door into the store. The man then shoved his hand in her mouth with his thumb, tore three of her teeth out of socket, and broke her jaw as he forced Akasha to the ground. The assailant then stood up and walked into the store to shop as Kohl’s staff stood idly by greeting other shoppers.
The other victim called the cops, and four Jackson police officers arrived on the scene. Everything was going fine, until Officer Ashley M. McCullar realized Adonis is trans. Adonis says:
When the officer first arrived on the scene and asked about the assault, he addressed me as she then asked for my i.d. and my name. [When] the officer saw that it was a male name, and I was a male to female transexual, he immediately changed his demeanor in how he treated me and the other witnesses. He rolled his eyes and turned his back to not look at me and said that he had ‘other places to be.’ There was no more conversation directed to me but to fellow officers and [other] people. He was short and rude/dismissive to witnesses and to the officers I was the ‘He not She.’ The officer told my mother that the case would take a few days to write up and he would get the surveillance tape and then walked away. In the officer report he put in that “the black male then defended himself and put Quick in his place.”
Adonis ended up needing oral surgery; none of her teeth could be saved and the total bill came to $6,000. But that’s not the end of the damage. When Adonis and her mother asked for a copy of the police report, they noticed crucial information missing.
The report given to Akasha omits a statement collected from an “unknown witness” cited in a separate section of the report recording the observations of Officer McCullar. The Officer recorded that the unknown witness said “Quick was outside in line and became upset with the black male subject and Quick then threw the first punch, the black male then defended him self and put Quick in his place.” It appears that Officer McCullar is witholding part of the report that may shed light on whether the officer was recording his own transgender bias or that of the unknown witness. The other witness was the other woman attacked by the assailant at the entrance.
When asked why the cops hadn’t pulled the Kohl’s surveillance tape, the department responded that it needed a subpoena; Kohl’s tells Adonis the police are welcome to a copy of the tape. They just need to ask.
And in a report given to the Jackson Sun about Black Friday madness, the police clearly minimized the reality of the situation:
Jackson police said two people got into a fight at that department store [Kohl’s] sometime before its 3 a.m. scheduled opening. Police said one person was socked in the mouth, but there were no serious injuries.
In a comment left on the article, a user with the handle “IworkatKohls” writes: “To clear this up because I actually was the one to stop the fight, It was a sheman so technically it really wasn’t a woman.” Well then. Carry on? (NB: When Adonis’ mother posted about the incident on Facebook, another person claiming to be a Kohl’s employee insisted in a since-deleted comment: “no it happened before I got there. i got there at 5 AM. they said it was a guy and a guy dressed up as a woman . they said the he/she/it got its wig knocked off and some teeth knocked out.”)
As it stands, Adonis and her mother have filed a formal complaint against the officer handling their case. And in a follow up story filed today, the Jackson Sun describes the incident as a “scuffle” but does say the cops have reviewed the security tape.
Capt. Thom Corley with the Jackson Police Department confirmed Adonis filed a citizen’s complaint against the officer on Thursday. Corley said the complaint was listed as a courtesy complaint. Complaints about an officer being rude or the manner in which they treat someone are usually handled by the officer’s supervisor, Corley said. The complaint is thoroughly investigated and dealt with, he said. Corley declined to release the police report filed in the incident because it is still under investigation. He said officers have viewed the video surveillance from Kohl’s and are investigating the incident. No arrests have been made.
Will Adonis be pursuing a more serious civil rights complaint against Officer McCullar and the Jackson Police Department? Says TEP chairman Cole: “She is seriously considering a lot of different options.”