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Milwaukee leaders ask for public’s help in investigation of death of transgender woman

Police say motive unknown in June 15 shooting death of Brazil Johnson

A Milwaukee Police Department squad car.
(vincent desjardins) (CC-BY)

Milwaukee leaders are asking for the public’s help as police seek suspects in the shooting death of a transgender woman.

Brazil Johnson was found dead on the morning of June 15 on Teutonia Avenue near Garfield Avenue. Johnson was 28.

Speaking at a press conference Thursday, Milwaukee Alder JoCasta Zamarripa said transgender women of color are at higher risk of violence.

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“We are once again reminded of the harsh reality that transgender Black and brown women suffer higher rates of violence than their straight counterparts, as well as their lesbian gay and bisexual counterparts,” Zamarripa said.

Milwaukee Police say the motive for the homicide is unknown, and released few details about the killing.

Capt. Raymond Bratchett said he couldn’t release any details on the ongoing investigation. But he asked members of the public to come forward with information.

“Sometimes even the smallest amount of information can be the break that we need in these cases,” Bratchett said.

Speaking alongside police, Milwaukee County Supervisor Peter Burgelis said people in the city’s transgender community came together at a vigil earlier in the week to express their pain over Johnson’s death. But he said “given the historical difficulties with the police department” some people may be reluctant to come forward with information.

Still, he urged them to do so: “If you know something, say something.”

According to the Human Rights Campaign, there have been 19 transgender people murdered in the United States this year. Transgender people are more than four-times more likely to be victims of violent crime, according to a 2021 study by the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law.

Milwaukee is on pace to have a record number of homicides this year. According to the Milwaukee County Medical Examiner’s office, there have been 115 homicides in the county so far this year.