A Black Transgender Woman Was Murdered in Milwaukee 3 Weeks Ago. Her Killer Is Still at Large

A $28,000 reward is being offered for information about the murder of Brazil Johnson, 28, who was killed on June 15

brazil johnson
Photo: County Executive David Crowley/Facebook

Police in Milwaukee are widening their search for a suspect who shot and killed a transgender woman last month.

On June 15, Brazil Johnson, 28, was fatally shot near Teutonia and Garfield Avenues, according to police.

Her mother says she believes her daughter was killed because she was a transgender woman, Fox 6 Now reports.

"For those many wounds and for someone to be disfigured like that, it was definitely a hate crime," Bernitha Gildart said at a vigil in June, Fox 6 Now reports. "Someone was very angry."

On Friday, Milwaukee Crime Stoppers announced a reward offer of $28,000 for information leading to an arrest in Johnson's shooting.

County Supervisor Peter Burgelis announced that the Milwaukee LGBT Community Center, Cream City Foundation, and Milwaukee Crime Stoppers each contributed $1000 towards the Crime Stoppers reward.

Milwaukee Crime Stoppers President Attorney Michael Hupy pledged $25,000, Burgelis said in a release.

"As a Black transgender woman, Brazil Johnson represents a segment of our community that faces an epidemic of violence," Burgelis said.

"Ensuring everyone, regardless of their race or gender identity, feels safe living in Milwaukee County is of the utmost importance," he said.

At a press conference on Thursday,Alderwoman JoCasta Zamarripa said people are "outraged to hear of the loss of a young, Black transgender woman in our city," CNN reports.

"It is devastating that in light of Milwaukee's recent Pride celebrations, 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," she said.

Kevin Turner, executive director of the Milwaukee LGBT Community Center, said, "We stand with the family as well. We're here to support our transgender community [which] is being attacked on record levels and we want to make sure that their voices are being heard."

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Johnson is among at least 19 transgender person who have been fatally shot or killed in the U.S. in 2022, according to the Human Rights Campaign.

"We say 'at least' because too often these stories go unreported — or misreported. In previous years, the majority of these people were Black and Latinx transgender women," the HRC says on its website.

In 2021, the Human Rights Campaign tracked 50 fatalities against transgender and gender non-conforming people.

Black transgender women comprise 66% of all victims of fatal violence against transgender and gender non-conforming people, according to the Crime Stoppers release.

Transgender people are over four times more likely than cisgender people to be victims of violent crime, according to a study by UCLA, it says.

As police continue to look for Johnson's killer, her loved ones are mourning her loss.

"Brazil was a very free spirit, very fun-loving, believed in herself, believed in others when they didn't believe in themselves," Johnson's mother told Fox 6 Now.

"We all knew Brazil," Vogue Rebel, who works for the nonprofit Diverse and Resilient in Milwaukee, told WISN. "She was a loving, smiling, sweet individual which is why it's so disheartening for some of us."

"To be targeted like that and no one really say anything about how violent it was, it's scary for all the girls that are choosing this lifestyle," Rebel said, WISN reports.

Anyone with information about Johnson's murder is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 414-224-8477.

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