Memphis Cops Beat Trans Woman

February 12th turned out to be a terrible night for Duanna Johnson.

The first bummer came when the transgendered Memphis resident got nabbed for prostitution.

Then, as if that’s not bad enough, she ended up getting assaulted by a police officer.

Actually, not even assaulted – straight up beat down:

The officer hit Johnson several times with the handcuffs wrapped around his knuckles. In the video, you can see the flash of the metal. The tape shows another officer holding Johnson’s shoulders as she tries to protect herself.

Then he maced her. On the tape, other people in the room are seen turning away and fanning their hands because of the smell.

To her credit, Johnson tried to get some swings in, but they proved futile. A nurse later came to treat the cop, but left Johnson writhing on the floor.

So, what brought on this ferocious attack? We’ll let Johnson explain:

…He was trying to get me to come over to where he was, and I responded by telling him that wasn’t my name – that my mother didn’t name me a ‘faggot’ or a ‘he-she,’ so he got upset and approached me. And that’s when it started.

Right on, Johnson! Sure, it’s terrible what happened, but you should not have to respond to such rudeness. You are a lady.

The officer who held Johnson down received a pink slip, while the other remains suspended as officials review the case. Meanwhile, the FBI’s looking into whether the copper violated Johnson’s civil rights. We’re going to have to say yes.

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  • Tom

    Instead of punishing prostitutes with jail, these violent, sadistic cops should be going prison. And the city will be forced to pay out a huge settlement and business will continue as usual.

  • alex the sea turtle

    Yeah hope she gets a huge pay day and can live the real pretty women dream. That and seeing those horrible cops go to jail would be the silver lining.

  • fanboi

    I called the Memphis District Attorney’s office and they said they have no plans to prosecute the officers… lets change that! Write and call!

    Shelby County District Attorney’s Office
    201 Poplar Avenue, Third Floor
    Memphis, Tennessee 38103

    Media inquiries should be directed to:
    Jennifer Donnals, Communications Director
    [email protected]

  • Bill Perdue

    Jail house beatings and rapes are common. Along with anti-GLBT harassment and the rising number of murders they highlight the burning need for a hate crimes bill like the one the Democrats ditched. By publically junking the Matthew Sheppard Hate Crimes bill to lure bigoted voters they went on record saying they didn’t care one way or another if we’re beaten and killed. Pelosi, Reid, Frank, Clinton and Obama and all the Congressional Democrats bear some of the direct responsibility for these incidents.

    Additionally the direct connections between hate speech and hate violence is absolutely clear in this video and illustrates why we need a powerful anti-hate speech law to supplement a hate crimes law. One doesn’t work without the other.

    Our community has to respond aggressively to these attacks. I’m glad so see lawyers involved but the leaders of the Memphis GLBT community should consider taking a time out from partisan campaigning to mount a far more important campaign; a campaign to demand that all the police present and their supervisors be fired and lose their pensions. The perp should be prosecuted for aggravated assault they should be prosecuted as accessories.

    This beating could have ended tragically for Duanna if this bigoted EuroAmerican pig had made the initial arrest – she could have been taken into an alley and killed. It happens.

  • Tom

    Good for you fanboi. Thanks I will certainly call.

  • Bill Perdue

    Thanks fanboi. I’ll try to spread the word.

  • RPCV

    Well, quite simply, the ‘ho shouldn’t have been ‘ho-ing around. Lesson learned: Get a real job.

  • Nitesurf

    Too many cops behave as if they were criminals themselves.

  • fanboi

    Try complaining to the mayor of Memphis too.

    Mayor Willie W. Herenton
    City Hall
    125 N. Main St. Room 700
    Memphis, Tn 38103

  • fanboi

    and one more thing…

    even a “ho” deserves to be treated like a human being by authorities or anyone else. Those cops looked at her and just saw something less than themselves to be slapped around with no consequences.

    Saying Get a real job is akin to saying a rape victim was asking for it because of how she was dressed.

    Its this new thing we have called empathy, try it.

  • michael

    Remember this is the “monkey” state, the place where Martin Luther King met his end. A state where bigotry is codified into law.
    I am from there but escaped long ago and hope to God I never have to return. Avoid the place, don’t spend your cash there, don’t do business there and don’t indulge in the country music industry either. Go ahead and write, its worth a shot, but I am just reminding you of the hell hole your dealing with.

  • fanboi

    keep the worlds eye on them – tell your friends

  • Peter Pan

    @ RPCV who said ‘Well, quite simply, the ‘ho shouldn’t have been ‘ho-ing around. Lesson learned: Get a real job.’

    RPCV, you must have been abused as a child and liked it!

    It’s not human to abuse another human being unless your own life is in danger. Since I doubt very much that the police officers involved were frightened of this person I assume they where themselves abused as kids and see nothing wrong in physically abusing another human being.

    The cops definetely must lose their jobs!

    As for you, RPCV, try and get counseling before you become an abuser yourself! Or is it already too late for that?

  • Bill Perdue

    Peter Pan, I know that your motives in criticizing RPCV were well-intentioned and all that good stuff but keep in mind that farmers gave up trying to train pigs millenia ago. It’s a waste of time; it just annoys the pig and makes it squeal louder.

    Everything else you said was excellent. I wish we had a nationwide activist group that could organize demonstrations when this kind of thing happens.

  • SeaFlood

    For all of those wondering why trans issues matter to us? It’s because transpeople are not like str8 people. Many come out of our communities, in a sense, the gay civil rights movement was started by people with some “pretty interesting ideas about gender” i.e. drag queens — and some drag queens are beneath the umbrella of transgendered.

    Trans issues matters because the institution did this to one of US. One of OURS. And I know we may all be too cool to give a shit about each other, but decent people, upright people don’t write this kinda shit off.

    Now, what Perdue asks is right… is there a nationwide trans group like a fledgling HRC or… just something nationwide? Or is it left to HRC? (And Queerty, thanks for posting this.)


  • Christina

    To respond to RPCV,” she should not have been ho’ing”. Well, if transgender people could seek worthwhile employment and were protected under ENDA ( employment non discrimination act), they might not need to “ho”, as you put it.

    And to respond to SeaFlood: ” Transgender people do have a lobby,
    it is called GPac or gender pac. Although, GenderPac supports freedom of gender expression for all, gay , lesbian, transgender, genderqueer, intersex, bisexual, Butch, femme etc etc ad infinitum.

  • sickenedmemphian

    Memphis is fucked up. And I know this because I used to live there. Memphians tried to turn a young, gay boy, “straight” through “god” by basically holding him hostage, we have a 40 foot tall statue of liberty replica that is actually lady liberty crying while holding the cross and ten commandents…

    and now this. I just can’t fucking believe. I’m livid.

    I checked out the Commercial Appeal, Memphis’s paper, and found this (hopeful?) development:

    We have such a long way to go.

  • SeaFlood

    This is what I received when I wrote the address provided: Thanks for your email message. I wanted you to know that something is being done about this incident. This case is being investigated by the FBI. Once the FBI is finished with its investigation, the findings will be presented to the Shelby County District Attorney’s Office (for possible state charges) and the U.S. Attorney’s office (for possible federal charges). Additionally, the Memphis Police Department immediately fired one of the officers involved and there is a hearing next week regarding the employment of the other officer, who has been on desk duty since the incident occurred.

    As far as the D.A.’s Office involvement, we are waiting for the FBI’s investigation to be completed. The charges (prostitution and possession of drug paraphernalia) against the victim who was beaten in the video were dismissed by our office, as we did not find probable cause to prosecute.

    Thank you,

    Jennifer Donnals

    Communications Director

    Shelby County District Attorney’s Office

    Memphis, Tennessee

  • Charles J. Mueller

    The Memphis police department has reportedly fired the officer who held Johnson down while she was being struck, and put the officer who actually threw the punches on nonenforcement status pending an administrative hearing.

    That’s all well and good, but why does the Memphis Police Department hire homophobes andanti-transgender people in the first place? Violence is violence, whether perpetrated by the citizenry or police officers. Beating on any unarmed, subdued citizen, regardless of sex or sexual orientation or any other distinction, is totally barbaric as well as totally unacceptable in this day and age.

    Don’t they question their applicants about their feelings toward the LGBT community or, at the very least, offer ‘sensitivity training’ courses” to their law enforcement officers?

    This is shades of the pre-Stonewall 1960s when bashing of queer people by street thugs and New York City ‘finest’ was a common occurrence. In those days, GLBT people had more to fear from the police than they did from the street thugs who were encouraged to bash gays and for that reason, often refused to report such an incident to the police, let they get “more of the same”.

    GLBT bashing, is GLBT bashing, whether done by street trash or the police officers we hire at taxpayer expense to protect us from this sort of thing. Police Officers have a higher standard to live up to and if their personal hatreds and bigotries prevent them from administering their duties fairly and without prejudice, then they have no business being in law enforcement. Such police officers are nothing more than common criminals with a badge and a license to kill.

    Personally, I think the Memphis Police Department has some explaining to do and at the very least, owes the LGBT community an apology. I would strongly urge the writing of letters of protest, as is my intention to do, from the LGBT community to the governor of Tennessee and other state representatives demanding a full investigation into this matter.

    The Honorable Governor Phil Bredesen
    Governor’s office
    Tennessee State Capitol
    Nashville, TN 31243-0001

    Phone: 615-741-2001

    Fax: 615-532-9711

    Email: [email protected]

    A list of elected government officials may be found at:


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