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Yvonne McNeal, Homeless Lesbian Woman, Shot And Killed By New York Police

Yvonne Mcneal

First Posted: 10/07/11 10:11 AM ET Updated: 12/07/11 05:12 AM ET

Questions are being raised about the death of a 57-year-old homeless lesbian woman who was shot and killed by the New York Police Department earlier this week.

Police opened fire on Yvonne McNeal after she refused to drop a pair of knives reports NY1.com. The incident took place in front of New Providence Women's Shelter, a center for homeless women suffering from mental illness or addictions, on Sunday at 8:30pm.

Police say they shot McNeal after she refused to put down her weapons. She was pronounced dead upon arrival at Bellevue Hospital.

Those who knew McNeal were shocked by the altercation.

"She never bothered nobody. But she had an argument when I went to the movies. I saw her arguing earlier on 43rd Street with her girlfriend, on the phone," a local told NY1, adding, "And when I came back from the movie theater, she told me that they shot her and everything. So I was like, 'What the hell is going on?'"

Another resident said, "She never bothered nobody. She never talked to nobody. She stayed all to herself, she'd speak and that was it. So I was surprised that it was her."

Others in the community are questioning whether the NYPD's use of deadly force was warranted.

The group Queers for Economic Justice (QEJ), which McNeal was a member of, released a statement saying they are "shocked and outraged" by the shooting:

Yvonne’s killing on Sunday underscores the reality that the police cannot be relied on to respond compassionately to low income LGBTQ people when it concerns issues of safety in our communities. At QEJ, we are asking again how many potentially dangerous situations every year have to end up in a police shooting? It cannot be accepted that calling the police can be deadly for low Income LGBTQ New Yorkers.

Even in aggravated situations, the police have a choice to use non-lethal deterrents. A 57 year old woman with a cane that is attempting to re-enter a building, should not be the target of lethal violence. When police targeted largely white Occupy Wall Street protesters, they used pepper spray. When faced with a vulnerable woman of color, they chose to use lethal force as their first option.

The group also noted that in a report released last year in conjunction with the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, it was found that "19 percent of 171 low income LGBTGNC survey responders in NYC had been physically assaulted in the past two years [after calling or interacting with the police]... Among those who were currently homeless, the number jumps to 24 percent."

On Thursday night QEJ marched on Wall Street in McNeal's honor.

Police say an investigation into the incident is ongoing.

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Filed by Noah Michelson  |