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Arrest Made in Taysia Elzy Case; Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department to Establish LGBT Liaison

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(Originally published 12/31/08 on the Bilerico Project. Also see "Transwoman and her boyfriend murdered in Indianapolis" and "The Media, the Legislature and the Police Are Guilty Too.")

CBS station WISH-TV is reporting that a suspect has been arrested in the Indianapolis double homicide of Taysia Elzy and Michael Hunt. 9601453_BG1.jpgThe news station continues to refer to the victims as "two men" and, although new photographs are easily available showing Taysia Elzy as she presented, they continue to use the mugshot photos of the victims.

Police arrested a man Wednesday in connection with the deaths of two men in a Broad Ripple home on the day after Christmas.

U.S. Marshals and Fort Wayne police took Christopher Conwell, 20, of Fort Wayne, into custody in the northeastern Indiana city Wednesday morning, 6News' Rafael Sanchez reported.

Strangely, local NBC affiliate WTHR is also referring to the victims as "two men," but have not used the mugshot photos. Avery_Elzy_2.JPGInstead the TV station used this picture of Hunt and Elzy together with Elzy clearly presenting as a woman.

A few local organizations (not just LGBT) met yesterday with officials from the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department and Public Safety Director Scott Newman in a previously scheduled meeting to discuss hate crimes legislation. Indiana Equality, the statewide LGBT equality org, organized the meeting to facilitate a wide coalition of advocates for the legislation.

Indiana Transgender Advocacy Alliance President Vivian Benge sent an exclusive statement to me moments ago.

We discussed the Taysia Elzy/Michael Hunt murders at some length, as well as other concerns of the transgender community.

INTRAA is satisfied that the IMPD is doing everything it can to solve this heinous crime and to bring the perpetrator to justice.

INTRAA understands that the business of solving crimes and bringing criminals to justice is a dangerous and often thankless one for the police.

At the same time we, and the IMPD, recognize that there is a gulf of misinformation and history that separates the transgender community from a healthy trust of the police. This lack of understanding has a long history, but one that must be overcome in order that our community, and the larger LGBT community, can be made safer from such outrages.

INTRAA and IE participants in the meeting also addressed language and communication issues, such as the comment:

"... the] two individuals did live an alternative lifestyle" 12/27/08 Channel 13 video of Lt. Kevin Kelly regarding 12/26/08 murders of Avery Elzy and Michael Hunt.

INTRAA is persuaded that there was no malicious intent and no offence meant. In actuality, Lt. Kelly has been sensitive to language regarding people who are transgender, in the past, and we recognize communicating about cases involving people who are transgender can also be elicited and used by the press in ways not intended by the police department. Press attitudes must also be changed so that the flow of information to the public is appropriate and ethical.

Sources familiar with the details of the meeting also told me the police department confirmed to attendees that they will be establishing an LGBT liaison as I advocated. The sources also echoed Benge's statement that police officials apologized for the phrase "alternative lifestyle."

Officials also let LGBT organizations know that the crime didn't appear to be a hate crime. A motive was not mentioned, just that it probably wasn't a hate crime. Police also told attendees that they had a suspect but didn't release a motive. Since that meeting, police have arrested Christopher Conwell in Ft. Wayne, Indiana.

Indiana Equality has not released any details of the meeting. None of the other organizations have either, except for Benge's details of the conversation about the Hunt/Elzy murders.

Police have not released a motive for the slayings.

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