A 26-year-old man has been charged with attempted murder in the shooting of a transgender woman in Evansville, Ind. Gerald Duane Lewis, arrested and arraigned last week, is accused of shooting Crystal Cash in the jaw at her place of business after asking to use her bathroom.
Cash survived the attack and was able to provide police with a description of the gunman, which led to his arrest, reports the Evansville Courier & Press. She is currently recovering from her injuries in a local hospital. Lewis also allegedly shouted a homophobic slur at Cash during the assault, and he was found with the weapon used in the attack when he was arrested.
The Courier & Press also reported that Gerald Lewis, using the name Gadiell Ben Israel, has been connected with the Israel United in Christ Church, an organization listed as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. A Tumblr account connected with the group denounces interracial marriage, voting, Christian churches, and homosexuality in numerous images and videos. Following the shooting, the leader of the church posted a statement to the group’s website denying that Lewis was still connected with the organization, saying, “Gerald Duane Lewis aka Gadiell is not a member of our organization. Gerald was removed from the congregation months prior due to not adhering to the stringent guidelines of our organization.”
Unfortunately, the coverage by the Courier & Press also engaged in entirely unnecessary victim-blaming by mentioning the possibility that Cash was running a massage parlor and implying that she was a sex worker, writing, “It appears that Cash uses Backpage.com and other adult websites to advertise her services under her middle name. In those ads, she portrays herself as much younger, and her most recent postings on the adult classified page broadcast that she provides body rubs in a ‘relaxing mood atmosphere.'”
None of that information, even if true, is pertinent to the fact that Cash is a trans woman who was the victim of a violent assault. It only serves to further the false assumption that most trans women are sex workers, and that sex workers are somehow deserving of or culpable in violence. Cash’s status as a sex worker is completely irrelevant to the story as reported, and including that information (which is nearly one-third of the story’s length) is incredibly disrespectful to the victim of a possible hate crime.
The victim’s brother, Johnny Dickens, also took issue with the information posted by the Courier & Press. In an interview with local TV station WFIE (watch below), Dickens adamantly denied that his sister was operating a massage business, saying, “I just want to set the record straight and tell the world that my sister has come a long way from where she’s come. She has made something of herself. She’s a professional business owner and she is not some sort of a prostitute that’s luring people into her office.”
Dickens explained that Cash is licensed to apply professional makeup. An internet search for the address where was attacked turns up the website for her business, where Cash provides aesthetic and reflexology services, and lists numerous professional certifications.
Dickens also said in the interview that he believes his sister was targeted because she is trans, and that her attacker should face hate-crime charges. Indiana, however, is one of the few states that has no hate-crimes law. According to court records, Lewis has been charged with attempted murder, robbery, and carrying a handgun without a license.
2016 has been an extremely violent year for transgender people. To date, at least 15 trans people are known to have been murdered this year, the vast majority being trans women of color. The same week that Cash was attacked, another trans woman, Deeniquia Dodds, died as a result of wounds she sustained during an attack July 4.