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Human Rights Coalition Protests NYPD Negligence in Investigation of Transgender Woman’s Murder

by JOE DELMONACO

Islan “Rose” Nettles, 21

On the night of August 17, 2013 a 21-year-old transgender woman named Islan Nettles was with a group of other transgender friends on Frederick Douglass Blvd. in Harlem when they were approached by a group of young men including 20-year-old Paris Wilson. What happened next has become clouded and somewhat confused, but one thing is absolutely certain: that encounter led to Ms. Nettles’ death four days later.

According to NYPD reports, Mr. Wilson began flirting with Ms. Nettles.  When he and his friends realized that she was transgender they became enraged they began to follow the group and to taunt them with homophobic slurs.   At some point, Mr. Wilson punched Ms. Nettles in the face, knocking her to the pavement, and continued to pummel her until the NYPD arrived and pulled him off.  Ms. Nettles was taken by ambulance to Harlem Hospital where she was admitted with severe head trauma.  Mr. Wilson was arrested, and charged with misdemeanor assault and later released on $2,000 bail. On August 23, Ms. Nettles was declared brain dead, removed from life support, and she died of her injuries.

Shortly after Mr. Wilson’s release — but before Ms. Nettles had died — another man came forward and confessed to the assault.  He had been taken to the police by Paris Wilson’s mother who, it is believed, somehow coerced him into taking blame for the assault.  Despite the fact that the police believed this confession to be false, and that they therefore declined to charge the second man with any crime, all charges Mr. Wilson were dropped for “lack of evidence.”
Six months later both Mr. Wilson and the man who later confessed remain free.

Paris Wilson, 20

Paris Wilson, 20

Last Thursday, a coalition of several human rights organizations led a protest at One Police Plaza demanding explanations from the NYPD and from the office of Manhatttan District Attorney Cyrus Vance.  Although both have claimed that they are “aggressively investigating the crime as a homicide” little appears to have been made clearer since mid-August.
Asking for explanation, the protesters raise the following points that suggest that the NYPD has been far less than “aggressive” in their investigation:

– the failure to obtain DNA evidence from Mr. Wilson’s hands on the night of the crime

– the failure to check with the hospital about Ms. Nettles’ condition after the attack

– the failure to charge Mr. Wilson’s mother, Simone Wilson, or the second man with falsifying evidence or obstruction of justice even though they believed the second man’s confession to be fabricated

– the failure to adequately question witnesses, including those who claimed that Simone Wilson’s took cell phone pictures of them at the hospital that night – as a vehicle for intimidation against testifying

– the failure of NYPD cameras to record evidence of the crime despite their being attached to Police Service Area 6 (part of the 24th, 26th, and 32nd precincts) which were directly across the street from where it occurred

The NYPD and the DA’s office have issued no progress reports on the status of the investigation, and have not explained their “malfeasance” with respect to the way in which the initial investigation was mishandled, protesters claim.

In a press release issued last week, the coalition demands complete audits of the NYPD’s 24th, 26th, and 36th Precincts for their “capacity to conduct timely and unbiased investigations of this and other transphobic violent crimes.”

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