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Hate Crimes on Wikipedia: Nireah Johnson & Brandi Coleman

This entry is part 10 of 53 in the series lgbt hate crimes project

Once again, the theme seems to be uncontrollable rage. In the cases of Richie Phillips, Jason Gage, and Glenn Kopitske it was triggered by alleged sexual advances or sexual activity. In many of the cases I’m researching now, uncontrollable rage was triggered when men discovered that the women with whom they’d been intimate consensually were transgendered. Just as murder seems a rather extreme alternative to simply saying “No, thank you,” to allegedly unwanted, alleged advances, so it stands that no one deserves to be murdered if their partner does not know — or they do not disclose — their biological gender.

I don’t pretend to know what it’s like to have to decide, if, how, or when to disclose your gender identity to someone else, just like I don’t know what it’s like to have to struggle with gender identity and finally make the decision to start living on the outside the gender you’ve always felt on the inside. I can only listen to and acknowledge the experience of those who have lived with the reality of being transgender. I do know that no one deserves to die for being transgender, whether their sexual partner knows their biological gender or not. In some cases, I’m as skeptical about what the killers knew and when they knew it, as I am that any sexual advances or encounters in the previous cases involving gay men were unwanted or less than consensual.

In the murders of Jason Gage and Glenn Kopitske, the facts strongly suggest that whatever happened behind closed doors — where only the killer and the victim know what happened—was consensual. The uncontrollable rage that resulted in their murders was triggered by shame and anger on the part of their killers, over their own desires, or that others might find out, and their manhood would be threatened as a result. In some of the cases involving transgender victims, I find myself wondering how much the killers knew and to what degree the murders were driven by shame, guilt, anger, and the threatened manhood of the killers.

I found myself wondering about that as I researched the murder of Nireah Johnson. (BTW, if you’d like to help support the research for this project, you can do so via the PayPal button on the sidebar. All contributions will go to accessing news archives for research purposes.)

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Johnson, and her friend were tied up, shot, and their bodies burned after Paul Moore — who initially denied having a sexual encounter with Johnson — discovered that Johnson was biologically male, in a scene out of court documents that sounds like something right out of Boys Don’t Cry.

At 12:51 a.m. on July 23, 2003, Coleman called Moore’s home phone to speak with Ward. Coleman and Johnson then drove to Moore’s home in Coleman’s mother’s Jeep Grand Cherokee. Coleman, Johnson, Ward, and Moore chatted briefly outside and entered Moore’s home. Ward and Coleman went into Ward’s room, and Moore and Johnson went into Moore’s room.

Later, Moore entered Ward’s room with a “[b]lack and gray” Ruger .45-caliber handgun and said, “Man, I need to holler at you.” Id. at 456, 454. The two men went into the kitchen, and Moore asked Ward whether he knew “if Nireah is a man or a female.” Id. at 455. Ward told the “[d]isturbed” and “upset” Moore that Nireah looked like a woman to him. Id. Moore and Ward went into the living room, where Moore “interrogat[ed]” Johnson and Coleman regarding whether Johnson was male or female. Id. at 456. After approximately forty minutes of questioning, Johnson had to use the restroom. Moore followed him there and exclaimed in a “stunned, startled” voice, “Man, this is a boy.” Id. at 457. Moore became “real irate” and talked about feeling “like his manhood’s been violated[.]” Id. Moore stated that Johnson “was kissing on him.” Id. at 457. Moore stated that he should “[w]hip [their] ass” or “possibly kill them[.]” Id. at 458. Moore asked Johnson, “What did you think, I was a faggot?” Id.

Moore asked Ward to get some wire, which they used to bind Coleman’s and Johnson’s hands behind their backs. Johnson sobbed that he “didn’t mean nothing” and would “never do nothing like that again” and “turn straight.” Id. at 459. Moore put Coleman and Johnson in the backseat of the Jeep and told Ward to follow him in Ward’s car. Moore drove the Jeep from East 39th Street to a small park on Fall Creek Parkway North Drive, where he drove over a curb, around a locked gate, and into a wooded cul-de-sac. Ward drove past the gate, made a U-turn, and returned to see Moore walking up the road. Moore entered Ward’s car, took the handgun out of his pocket, dismantled it, and threw the pieces out the window. Moore said, “Man, I had to do it.” Id. at 463. Moore told Ward that he had to “calm [Coleman] down” after he shot Johnson. Id. at 464. The pair went back to Moore’s home, returned a roto-rooter to a rental store, and went their separate ways.

Manhood aside, I have to wonder about someone who can kill two people and still remember to stop and return a rented roto-rooter.

I found Nireah Johnson’s story in GPAC’s publication 50 Under 30: Masculinity and the War on America’s Youth, which will definitely serve as a source for more stories to come.

Here’s what happened to Nireah Johnson and Brandie Coleman.

Free Image Hosting at allyoucanupload.comNireah Johnson (1986 – July 23, 2003) was an African American transgender woman, murdered in Indianapolis, Indiana by Paul Moore, after more discovered Johnson was biologically male.

The Background



On June 18, 2003 Nireah Johnson, 17, and friend Brandie Coleman, 18, were riding around with friend Adrian Beverly.[1] Johnson and Coleman were said by Coleman’s relatives to have been lifelong friends. Coleman’s relatives said they also believed Johnson to be the father of Coleman’s two-month-old daughter.[2]

The trio saw Paul Moore riding in a car driven by Curtis Ward, and asked them to pull into a gas station parking lot. Johnson and Moore got out of their vehicles, talked briefly and exchanged numbers.[1]

Moore reportedly said he was attracted to Johnson, and believed Johnson was biologically female. Moore later told police that Johnson kissed him on the cheek when they parted, and they agreed to meet later. He denied meeting Johnson at a later date. [3]

The Murders



According to court documents,[1] at 12:51 a.m. on July 23, Coleman called Moore’s home to speak with Ward. Coleman and Johnson then drove Coleman’s mother’s Jeep Grand Cherokee to Moore’s apartment. The four talked outside and then went into the apartment. Ward and Coleman went into Ward’s room, while Moore and Johnson went into Moore’s room.

Moore later entered Ward’s room with a Ruger .45 caliber handgun and asked to speak with Ward. The two men went into the kitchen, where Moore asked if Ward knew whether Johnson was male or female. The two men went into the living room, where Moore asked Johnson and Coleman whether Johnson was male or female.

When Johnson went to use the bathroom, after forty minutes of discussion, Moore followed and discovered Johnson was biologically male. Moore became upset, and then asked Ward to get some wire. They used the wire to bind Coleman’s and Johnson’s hands behind their backs. Moore put Johnson and Coleman in the back seat of the Jeep, and told Ward to follow him.

Moore drove the Jeep to a wooded area in Fall Creek Corridor Park in Indianapolis. Ward made a U-turn after which Moore entered Ward’s vehicle. Moore then dismantled the handgun and threw the pieces out of the window. The men then returned to Moore’s home.[1]

That afternoon, Moore called Ward to suggest they set fire to the jeep. Ward spoke to Moore’s brother, Charles McGee, who had seen Johnson’s and Coleman’s bodies in the vehicle. McGee and Ward returned to the park that night with a can of gasoline and burned the vehicle containing Johnson’s and Coleman’s bodies.

Discovery



Johnson’s and Coleman’s bodies were found later, on the night of July 23, when firefighters were alerted to a burning vehicle. They were found lying on the back seat of the Jeep. Their bodies were burned beyond recognition, and investigators were unable to determine the race or gender of either victim. Police treated the deaths as homicides, though they had not yet determined whether the victims has been murdered.[4]

On July 24, the Marion County, Indiana coroner’s office released Johnson’s and Coleman’s names as homicide victims. The coroner’s report said that each had been shot in the forehead before the fire started. Investigators determined that gasoline had been poured into the back seat and ignited.[1] Authorities were alerted when Coleman’s mother, Mary Coleman recognized the vehicle in news reports, from the FedEx plate on the front. Mary Coleman, who worked at FedEx, called a television station, and the station then contacted the police.[5]

The Aftermath



Arrests



Paul Moore was arrested on Thursday, July 31, 2003,[6] after Adrian Beverly identified him as the passenger she had seen in Ward’s car on July 18, with Johnson and Coleman.[1] Police were also led to Moore when [ballistics]] tests revealed that the .45 caliber bullets removed from the victims matched a gun taken from Moore during a disturbance in 2002.[3] Moore was charged with murder, confinement, and arson.[1]

Ward was arrested, and charged with confinment, arson, and assisting a criminal.[7] Clarence McGee was arrested as well.

Trial, Conviction & Sentecing



Moore and McGee went to trial in April 2004.[1] Ward testified against Moore and McGee in exchange for lesser charges. [8] The jury found both men guilty. Moore was convicted on two counts of murder, criminal confinement, and arson. McGee was convicted of arson, assisting a criminal, and obstruction of justice.[9]

On May 5, 2004 judge Robert Altice gave move combined sentences of 120 year for the murders of Johnson and Coleman.[10] Moore received consecutive 55 year sentences for the murder of Johnson and Coleman, and concurrent ten year sentences for each count of confinement and arson.[1]

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