Floridian 17-year old Simmie Williams Jr. found himself dead this weekend after being gunned down in a drive by shooting. Friends and police suspect hate may have been a motivating factor, for Williams often dressed as a girl and, in fact, was dressed to the nines at the time of his death:
Simmie Williams Jr., 17, was attacked on the 1000 block of Sistrunk Boulevard by two young men who wore dark clothing and might live in the neighborhood, police said. Williams, who was wearing a dress and was known in the area by his first name or as “Chris” or “Beyonce,” was shot about 12:45 a.m. Friday and soon afterward died at Broward General Medical Center, police said.It’s unclear what Williams was doing in the area, about four miles from his house, but police are investigating whether he was working as a prostitute, officials said.
Williams’ mother said her son was openly gay, but she didn’t know what he did when he went out at night, and she didn’t know he wore women’s clothes.
Broward County gay rights organizations are angry over Williams’ death, of course but, as Equality Florida’s Nadine Smith says, not surprised: “We can be horrified, but we cannot be surprised. Just 10 days ago, 15 year-old Lawrence King was gunned down in California.” Isn’t America supposed to be “the best” country in the world? Why, then, do we keep hearing stories of dead queer teenagers. This shit’s really depressing!
We’ve also included the official EF press release after the jump…
Gay 17 Year-old Murdered in Broward
Community Outraged Over Continuing Epidemic of Hate Violence
(Ft. Lauderdale) Today, Equality Florida and the coalition Transgender Equality Rights Initiatives (TERI) expressed outrage over the murder of Simmie Williams Jr., a gay 17 year-old who was gunned down this past weekend on a street corner in Broward County. Police are investigating the murder as a possible hate crime based on the words witnesses say were exchanged before the shooting.
“We can be horrified, but we cannot be surprised,” said Nadine Smith, executive director of Equality Florida. “Just 10 days ago, 15 year-old Lawrence King was gunned down in California. Nearly a year ago, Ryan Skipper was brutally stabbed and his body dumped on the roadside here in Florida. And a week after Ryan’s murder, 20 year-old Sean Kennedy was killed outside a gay bar in South Carolina. All of these deaths were preventable. We all must have the will to act and compel our schools and our legislature to confront the harassment and violence directed at gay and transgender young people.”
Across the country, studies have shown that perpetrators of hate-crimes are overwhelmingly male, 18 to 24 years-old, and that they often get their start with bullying in schools. With this in mind, Equality Florida has made it their top legislative priority to pass a statewide Safe School bill that would address the epidemic of bullying and violence in Florida schools.
“It is time we demand our government to act and implement policy to decrease the risk factors affecting LGBT youth,” said Michael Emanuel Rajner, co-founder of Transgender Equality Rights Initiatives. “Of the 900 youth in Broward County transitional living facilities, an estimated 25% are LGBT, many have been banished from their homes simply for being LGBT.”
A memorial is being planned for 4:30PM Thursday, February 27th at the 1000 block of Sistrunk Boulevard, Fort Lauderdale where the murder occurred. A town hall meeting will follow at 6:30 at the Gay & Lesbian Community Center of South Florida 1717 N. Andrews Avenue, Fort Lauderdale, FL to discuss the issue of hate crimes in Florida.
Equality Florida is Florida’s only statewide human rights organization dedicated to the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people. Through education and advocacy, the organization is committed to building a state of equal rights for all Floridians, inclusive of all sexual orientations and gender identities.