DALLAS—A string of deadly attacks on black transgender women here—with two killed since April—has captured national attention and left the trans community on edge.
Now The Daily Beast has learned that authorities are also investigating the 2017 death of a black transgender woman named Armani Dante Morgan. Police have not said Morgan’s death is related to the other cases—but her family is demanding equal treatment from investigators.
“I want the Dallas Police Department to actually start pursuing Armani’s death like they are the other cases,” Robin Johnson, Morgan’s aunt, told The Daily Beast. “I get it, [her] case is gonna be a tough case to solve because it was only skeletal remains that were found… but they have been trying to give up on this case since day one.”
Morgan’s remains were found in a field on the city’s east side in July 2017. Police initially told the family they suspected the 27-year-old died of an overdose, according to Johnson. Now, police have said her death is an “open investigation.” The medical examiner’s report said the cause of death was “undetermined” due in large part to the fact that only Morgan’s skeletal remains were recovered.
“We have not ruled out criminal conduct, however there is insufficient information thus far to indicate that her death was the result of a criminal act,” a police spokesperson told The Daily Beast.
Johnson said the family immediately suspected she was killed, because she was attacked four times—including once by gunfire—in the days preceding her death.
On May 31, 2017, someone shot into Morgan’s apartment where she lived with her mother, according to Johnson. When Morgan and her mother went outside after the bullet pierced a window, Morgan was attacked by a close female associate and her teenage daughter, Johnson said.
Video reviewed by The Daily Beast shows a woman punch Morgan in the face in the parking lot and Morgan falling to the ground. Another woman then approaches Morgan with her fists raised and pushes her before the video ends.
It was the second in a series of attacks on Morgan carried out by the woman, Johnson said. The third and final attack came on June 3, 2017, and occurred not far from Morgan’s home. That was the last day she was seen alive.
Johnson said the woman had accused Morgan of stealing money from her and police interviewed her.
After Morgan went missing, family and friends looked for her unsuccessfully. Almost two months later, a passerby found Morgan’s skull near a field less than a mile from her home.
Morgan’s family contacted the medical examiner to see if any bodies had shown up and learned of the skeletal remains found not far from where Morgan was last seen. Morgan’s mother submitted for a DNA test that provided authorities with a positive match.
The rest of her skeleton was recovered by police in a nearby field, according to the medical examiner’s report, along with a bag containing clothes and toiletries.
“All of the…[recent] transgender deaths and assaults have gotten the media attention that those cases deserve but unfortunately, Armani’s did not receive any media attention at all at the time Armani’s badly decomposed remains were unexpectedly discovered,” Johnson told The Daily Beast.
After Morgan died, four other women were attacked in cases that remain unsolved, and three of them died. Police said there are “similarities” between three of the attacks: All were black trans women who were in vehicles with someone else before they were attacked.
Transgender activists and advocates held a private meeting Wednesday night and a public one on Thursday to discuss how to help trans women, especially those of color, and make them aware of resources and allies that support them. A march was held Sunday demanding justice for the trans community, which has seen at least nine black trans women murdered across the country so far this year.
“We’re hurting, we’re angry, we’re pissed, and we’re in various emotional stages of grievance,” Carmarion Anderson, a trans activist, said at Thursday’s meeting.
Krista De La Rosa, a trans woman and activist, has been in regular contact with police regarding the disturbing string of deaths.
“Right now everyone’s just really[...] it’s a bunch of mixed emotions—some are angry, some are still mourning, some don’t know how to feel,” De La Rosa told The Daily Beast. “It feels as if our community is being attacked.”
In October 2018, police said, Brittany White was found shot to death inside a car where she had been with someone else. In April 2019, a transgender woman who had also been in a car with someone was stabbed multiple times and survived. She gave police a description of her attacker: a black male in a silver or gray car.
Police said at a May 21 press conference there is a “nexus” between the attacks and the intersection of Spring and Lagow. Local residents told The Daily Beast that Spring and Lagow is where people seek out transgender and gay sex workers.
“We don’t know if we’re looking for a john or not, we’re just looking for a suspect,” a police spokesperson told The Daily Beast last week, adding the department would not comment on “possible lifestyles beyond that they were transgender.”
On May 18, Muhlaysia Booker was found shot to death less than five miles from Spring and Lagow after police said she apparently got into a vehicle with another person. Less than a month earlier, Booker was the subject of national attention when a video of her being assaulted in an apartment complex parking lot went viral. (The attack occurred in the same apartment complex where Morgan lived, but police said the cases aren’t believed to be related.) Police arrested one man for the beating, but said they aren’t looking at him in relation to Booker’s murder.
Finally, on June 1, Chynal Lindsey’s body was found floating in a lake with signs of what police called “homicidal violence.” Police asked the public for information about Lindsey’s death.
Lindsey’s cousin Tamaya Seaphus told The Daily Beast that Lindsey had done sex work in the greater Dallas area, although Seaphus couldn’t say for certain where in the city that took place. Lindsey’s body was found seven miles north of Spring and Lagow.
Seaphus said she tried for years to convince Lindsey to stop sex work, and that Lindsey recounted instances when men she was with assaulted and threatened her after they learned she had male genitalia.
As a trans woman growing up in Chicago, Lindsey was an outcast, Seaphus said. After moving to Texas to be closer to Seaphus and other family, Lindsey developed a drug habit and funded it with sex work.
Seaphus said her cousin “didn’t feel loved, didn’t feel beautiful, didn’t feel smart,” and “gave up on life.”
That didn’t mean her family did.
The last time Seaphus saw Lindsey, in April, she asked, “How do I know this isn’t my last time seeing you?”
“Girl, you know you’ll see me again,” Lindsey told her cousin.
“And then I get a call [she] was found in a lake.”