I started researching the murder of Simmie Williams back in August, around the same time I began researching the murder of Lawrence
Maybe it was because of race, maybe it was because of the difference in age between him and King, whose murder has arguably received the most attention since Matthew Shepard. But, then, that’s no different from any number of anti-LGBT hate crimes that rarely make headlines outside of the communities where they occur. Memorials are held, sometimes vigils on the murder site or where the body was found or outside of hospitals. Local groups organize. Sometimes a suspect is caught, and even tried and convicted.
But most of the rest of the world never hears.
I remember when Matthew Shepard died. I’d been on a business trip when news of the attack hit the news and while he was in the hospital. By the time I arrived in D.C., Shepard’s death had unleashed protests across the county, including a huge protest at the Capitol here in D.C. King’s death caused a number of protests, though perhaps not as many as Shepard’s.
Both surpassed Williams’ murder in terms of media attention. I’d bet since his murder in February, there have been many times more articles about King and Shepard than Williams. The same is true of Ukea Davis and Stephanie Thomas, Bella Evangelista, Daniel Fetty, Nireah Johnson, Steen Fenrich or any number of similar cases. In many cases, there’s very little information about these cases, that isn’t hidden behind a subscription requirement. So there’s less of chance that their stories will be remembered, let alone told.
Small as it may be, I hope my contribution means that stories like what happened to Simmie William’s won’t be forgotten or go untold.
Simmie Williams (November 25, 1990 – February 22, 2008), a 17-year-old African American gay man, was shot and killed on February 22, 2008, in Fort Lauderdale, FL, after an exchange of words with a group of young men.
Williams — who often went by other names, including Beyonce, Chris, or Li’l Rick — had signed up for the Job Corp, a federal program designed to teach young people vocational skills, the Wednesday before his murder. His mother, Denise King, said Williams planned to get his GED and go to culinary school. King pulled her son out of Hollywood Hills High School during his sophomore year, after he confided that he was tired of being bullied.1) He worked part-time at Kmart and seasonally at Honeybaked Ham.2)
Williams spent the day before he was killed with his mother, who was close friends with the mother of murder victim Timothy Broadus.3) He spent most of the day babysitting his year-old cousin, and waiting for a cable technician. As he did on most days, King prepared dinner for his mother.4)
King said her son was openly gay, but she didn’t know what he did when he went out at night or that he dressed in women’s clothing.5) The cable technician never arrived, and Williams decided to go out. King gave him $2 for bus fare across town, to go meet friends.6)
Williams was attacked on the 1000 block of Sistrunk Boulevard. He got into an argument with two young men in dark clothing7), whom police said might live in the neighborhood. Witnesses heard gunshots, and the men ran away.8) Witnesses described the men as young black men.9)
Williams was shot at about 12:45 a.m. on Friday, February 22, and died shortly afterward at Broward County Medical Center.10)
Williams was found wearing women’s clothing. Neighborhood residents said the corner where Williams was found was popular hangout for transgender sex workers.
Shortly after the murder, Fort Lauderdale police spokesman Sgt. Frank Sousa said Williams’ murder was not being investigated as a hate crime. But that police had not ruled out Williams’ sexual orientation as a factor.
Despite the presence of others in the area, police did not have any firm suspects in the days after the shooting.11) The investigation produced few leads. Broward County Crime Stoppers received two tips, neither of which panned out.
The local gay community raised money to help pay for William’s funeral, held a townhall meeting to address gay bashing, and renewed efforts to get state legislature to pass an anti-bullying law that was amended to include sexual orientation and gender identity and expression.
Matt Foreman, former Executive Director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, pledged $10,000 towards the reward to find Williams’ murderer.12)
On February 27 13), more than 100 mourners, including King, gathered for a vigil at the location where Williams was shot. 14)