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Crime

Transgender Community Rallies After Homicide in Prince George’s

THE AFRO — The investigation into the apparent homicide of a transgender woman in Fairmount Heights continues in Prince George’s County.  Ashanti Carmon, 27, of Alexandria, Va. was fatally shot several times reportedly after an evening out with friends on March 30.

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By Mark F. Gray

The investigation into the apparent homicide of a transgender woman in Fairmount Heights continues in Prince George’s County.  Ashanti Carmon, 27, of Alexandria, Va. was fatally shot several times reportedly after an evening out with friends on March 30.

According to a statement from the Prince George’s County Police Department, Fairmount Heights Police responded to reports of gunshots fired near the 5000 block of Jost Street in the vicinity of Eastern Avenue N.E., near the D.C.- Maryland border, around 6:30 a.m. When officers arrived on the scene they found Carmon’s body filled with multiple gunshot wounds and she was pronounced dead on the scene.

In an emotional interview Carmon’s fiancé, Phillip Williams, told NBC-4 in Washington there was no reason why someone would want to hurt her. Williams said they had gone to a movie and dinner on Friday night, and he hadn’t heard from Ashanti since she went out with her friends while he was at work.

“Until I leave this earth, I’m gonna continue on loving her, in my heart, body and soul,” Williams said. “She did not deserve to leave this earth so early. Especially in the way she went out, she did not deserve that. … I’m gonna miss her face every day. I’m gonna miss her smile. I’m gonna miss every inch of her.”

Police have yet to make any arrests in the case while Carmon’s loved ones and the transgender community have rallied around this horrific tragedy. A candlelight vigil was held to honor her memory on April 2. It was not only a time for the D.M.V.’s transgender community to mourn it was a call to action against a rash of hate crimes directed toward them.

“I can’t call it hate. I don’t know what happened. I don’t know what led up to it,” said trans activist Earline Budd Metro Weekly. All we can do is plead that someone comes forward with information. I believe that eventually something will come out that will shed more light on what happened.”

A major problem facing this community is gentrification. With D.C. and Maryland in the midst of their transformations, many of the places where members of the gay, lesbian and transgender community would socialize in have been converted into new establishments, which has diminished the number of safe social sanctuaries for these residents.

Budd noted that while there have been a history of anti-transgender attacks or robberies in the Eastern Avenue corridor in recent years, this community has no place to congregate in the D.C. metro area, and therefore end up meeting in public places, like along the Eastern Avenue corridor where Carmon’s apparent murder took place.

“We don’t have anywhere in this city now to go,” Budd said. “So the streets are the place where we congregate with our friends and sometimes we are preyed upon.”

According to the Human Rights Campaign’s 2018 Anti-Trans Violence Report at least 128 transgender and gender-expansive individuals have been killed in the U.S since 2013. However, 2017 and 2018 saw the largest spike toward transgender Americans with 51 targeted attacks that were fatal nationwide.

Transgender people of color have been targeted the most. In the past six years of reporting at least 110 victims were people of color, including 95 who identified themselves as Black or African American.

“With the administration we have now, the Trump-Pence administration, it has done nothing for us as transgender people,” Budd added. “In fact, it more or less validates that it’s all right to kill us, to do anything you want to us, because we are transgender people.”

This article originally appeared in The Afro

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Bay Area

No Charges to Be Filed in Death of Supervisor Wilma Chan

Chan was walking her dog when she was hit by a vehicle at 8:05 a.m. on Nov. 3, 2021, at Grand Street and Shore Line Drive in Alameda. Chan was a resident of the city for 27 years. “My Office reviewed the completed (police) reports,” O’Malley said. “To file criminal charges, we would have to find that the driver was criminally negligent, such as running a stop sign.” O’Malley said, “We did not find such negligence.”

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The late Wilma Chan, Alameda County Supervisor for District 3, including the cities of Alameda, San Leandro, a portion of Oakland, including Chinatown, Jack London, and Fruitvale, among others. (Office of Wilma Chan via Bay City News)
The late Wilma Chan, Alameda County Supervisor for District 3, including the cities of Alameda, San Leandro, a portion of Oakland, including Chinatown, Jack London, and Fruitvale, among others. (Office of Wilma Chan via Bay City News)

By Keith Burbank | Bay City News

Criminal charges will not be filed against the driver of the vehicle that hit and killed Alameda County Supervisor Wilma Chan in November 2021, Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley said recently.

Chan was walking her dog when she was hit by a vehicle at 8:05 a.m. on Nov. 3, 2021, at Grand Street and Shore Line Drive in Alameda. Chan was a resident of the city for 27 years.

“My Office reviewed the completed (police) reports,” O’Malley said. “To file criminal charges, we would have to find that the driver was criminally negligent, such as running a stop sign.”

O’Malley said, “We did not find such negligence.”

Alameda officials declined to release details of the police investigation into the collision. O’Malley said officers made diagrams, took statements from witnesses, and analyzed the trajectory of the sun that morning.

“Supervisor Chan was a tireless advocate for seniors, children, and families, promoting programs that advance children’s health, and help lift people out of poverty, and so much more,” Alameda Mayor Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft said in a statement the day that Chan died. “Her compassion, strong sense of community, and devotion to the people she served will be profoundly missed.”

In recognition of Chan’s work and contributions to the city, Alameda renamed a street after her on Nov. 16, when family, friends, city officials and colleagues unveiled Wilma Chan Way, which stretches from Webster Street to Lincoln Avenue replacing Constitution Way.

Drivers from Oakland via the Webster Street tube will first encounter Alameda by way of Wilma Chan Way.

“Wilma Chan was a wonderful leader for Alameda County,” O’Malley said. “She was a champion, for example, of All In Alameda County, which addresses food insecurity and address issues of poverty.”

Chan was responsible for “several projects that were quite personal and impactful to vulnerable individuals and other members of our community,” O’Malley added. “‘All In’ is one example of the vision and humanity Supervisor Chan brought to the Board of Supervisors.”

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Bay Area

Sheriff’s Office Says Phone Scammers Threaten Arrest to Get Money

“The Sheriff’s Office would like to warn people about this scam which has multiple versions. Scammers have also had listeners make payment over the phone through reloadable prepaid cards that could be purchased at a local store.”

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By Tony Hicks | Bay City News Foundation

The Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Office is warning people about a scam involving phone calls from someone claiming to be from the sheriff’s office, saying there’s a warrant for their arrest and they will be arrested unless they pay them money.

The sheriff’s office says on its Facebook page “The Sheriff’s Office does not have people pay fines or fees through reloadable prepaid cards. Nor are citizens ever contacted in this way.”

“The Sheriff’s Office would like to warn people about this scam which has multiple versions. Scammers have also had listeners make payment over the phone through reloadable prepaid cards that could be purchased at a local store.”

Authorities say many people have already been taken by the scam and anyone getting such a call “should refuse to provide any personal information to the caller or simply hang up.”

“Please contact your local law enforcement agency and notify them of the incident to see if a report could be taken.”

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Activism

Mentally Ill Prisoners in California 3 Times More Likely to Get Shuffled Around

CalMatters’ analysis of data from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation found that, from 2016 to 2021, California prisoners in “enhanced outpatient” mental health treatment were moved three times more often, on average, than other prisoners. The data shows that incarcerated people in the system’s enhanced mental health program — which provides the highest level of outpatient mental health care for prisoners — averaged five moves during the time period, compared to an average 1.5 transfers for people in the general prison population. 

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In 1995, a federal court ruled that the department was not providing adequate mental health care to prisoners. The court eventually approved the Corrections Department’s plan for providing mental health care and appointed a special master to monitor and report on the state’s compliance.  
In 1995, a federal court ruled that the department was not providing adequate mental health care to prisoners. The court eventually approved the Corrections Department’s plan for providing mental health care and appointed a special master to monitor and report on the state’s compliance.  

By Byrhonda Lyons, Jocelyn Wiener and Erica Yee | CalMatters

California state prisons transfer people with serious mental illness far more frequently than other prisoners — sometimes moving them dozens of times — a CalMatters analysis of newly acquired state data has found.

The findings underscore a CalMatters investigation from earlier this year which revealed the state’s practice of shuffling around mentally ill prisoners, which some advocates say can be disruptive and damaging to these vulnerable people.

The story focused on the case of Adam Collier, who had been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder and anxiety disorder, among other mental illnesses.

Collier was serving a five-year sentence for exposing himself to women in public while high on meth. He was moved 39 times between 2016 and 2020 — bouncing among crisis units, state hospitals and seven different prisons — before he killed himself in Kern Valley State Prison in October 2020.

CalMatters’ analysis of data from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation found that, from 2016 to 2021, California prisoners in “enhanced outpatient” mental health treatment were moved three times more often, on average, than other prisoners.

The data shows that incarcerated people in the system’s enhanced mental health program — which provides the highest level of outpatient mental health care for prisoners — averaged five moves during the time period, compared to an average 1.5 transfers for people in the general prison population.

One person, who was in and out of the mental health program, moved 75 times during the six-year period. The data does not identify any individuals.

“That doesn’t surprise me at all,” said Keramet Reiter, a criminology professor at the University of California, Irvine. “The seriously mentally ill people…bounce around a bit.”

CalMatters had requested the state’s transfers data on March 31, 2022; the department responded on Aug. 1 and Sept. 16. For its June story, CalMatters collected its own data about prison transfers for about a year, which generally mirrors the state’s records during the same timeframe.

“Transfers for an inmate are disruptive,” said Christopher Lisieski, the attorney representing Collier’s mother in a federal lawsuit against several prison employees. “Disrupting someone’s routine who’s severely mentally ill is additional stress and strain and can worsen mental health symptoms.”

Advocates, prisoners, and family members contend that, in cases like Collier’s, a steady stream of transfers reflects a system that too often fails to adequately care for people in mental health crises. These incarcerated people might bounce between prisons and short-term crisis beds without ever stabilizing enough to get better, they say.

In California, mental health care in state prisons is designed so that incarcerated people transfer to appropriate levels of care as their needs change. Treatments range from outpatient therapy in the general prisoner population to long-term hospitalization in treatment facilities within the correctional system.

Prisoners needing the highest level of care could be sent to state hospitals, which are separate facilities that also house people who are not in the criminal justice system.

But the system doesn’t always work perfectly. In several investigations, the Inspector General has determined that people who need it sometimes aren’t referred to a higher level of care.

In other cases, experts say, multiple transfers can mean the system is working and people are getting the care they need.

Department spokesperson Dana Simas wrote in an emailed statement that the state transfers prisoners for a variety of reasons, including court hearings, medical treatment, mental health treatment, changes in security level, patient safety, staff conflicts, misconduct allegations or parole.

In California, prison mental health treatment policies are governed by a federal class-action lawsuit — known as Coleman — on behalf of prisoners with serious mental illness.

In 1995, a federal court ruled that the department was not providing adequate mental health care to prisoners. The court eventually approved the Corrections Department’s plan for providing mental health care and appointed a special master to monitor and report on the state’s compliance.

“The department works closely with the Coleman special master and others on these matters, and always strives for what is in the best interest of the patient’s individual needs,” Simas wrote in an email to CalMatters.

Special master Matthew A. Lopes Jr. did not respond to CalMatters’ request for comment.

In Collier’s case, he moved so frequently that his mother, Susan Ottele of McMinnville, Ore., started “every single, solitary day” checking online to see which prison was holding Collier and why.

When the pandemic hit, the prisons went on lockdown, and Collier sat inside Kern Valley State Prison for seven months. It was his longest stay at any prison since 2016.

“With all these transfers, I’m fucking dizzy,” Collier wrote in a letter to Ottele in March 2020. Months later, at age 43, Collier killed himself.

The Office of the Inspector General investigated Collier’s suicide and found that the department had “poorly handled” Collier’s case. The inspector general’s March 2021 report described an array of internal problems, including clinicians improperly delaying Collier’s referral to a higher level of care and failing to adequately document his history of self-harm.

Earlier this year, Ottele filed a wrongful death complaint in federal court, alleging that prison guards failed to monitor her son and acted with deliberate indifference.

In court documents, state attorneys deny these claims, saying the guards were not aware of Collier’s history of suicide attempts. The Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation declined to comment on the lawsuit, citing pending litigation. Lisieski, Ottele’s attorney, said the case likely won’t be resolved for years.

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