Over 600,000 people have signed a Change.org petition demanding justice for Tete Gulley, a Black transgender woman who was found hanging in a park in Portland, Oregon last year. Her death was previously ruled a suicide by the Oregon Medical Examiner’s Office. However, in the wake of Black Lives Matter protests and social justice reform, Gulley’s friends and family are hoping new awareness will bring answers.
The 31-year-old was found on May 27, 2019 in Rocky Butte Park outside of a homeless encampment. According to the petition, Gulley’s mother was never given any records of her autopsy. Furthermore, requests from the Oregon Public Broadcasting TV network and the Portland Mercury to review the autopsy records were denied.
The petition also accuses Portland police of ignoring witnesses and potential evidence, failing to notify Gulley’s family about her death and overall negligence within the investigation.
“Tete’s friends and members of the homeless community have contacted her family, claiming that Tete had been murdered, and was then hung from a tree to make it look like a suicide,” the petition reads. “They said there were other homeless people [who] had witnessed it, and that someone had a video. The [Portland Police Bureau] is responsible for allocating the resources to find this video. Many claim that Tete had been murdered by an individual with a history of violence, especially towards trans women. This individual has been previously dismissed by the police.”
Gulley’s family has also spoken out against the suicide ruling and stated that while she did suffer from mental health issues, Gulley was not suicidal. The victim’s brother Richard Bryant —a former police cadet — told the Portland Mercury that he believed the investigation was intentionally dismissed due to Gulley being homeless.
“They treat a lot of homeless people like they don’t mean nothing to this earth… in the homeless community, other people are willing to do hurt to more people, because they know their voices won’t be heard,” he told the outlet. “They’re just homeless.”
In a statement issued to Pink News, the Portland Police Bureau responded to the petition. “The Police Bureau has learned from a media report that there may be community members with additional information and/or video of the incident,” the statement read.
“A member of the detective division has made contact with family in an attempt to gather more details. If anyone has information about this incident or the circumstances leading up to it, please contact Detectives at (503) 823-0400. Detectives will share this information with the Medical Examiner’s Office.”
“We continue to strive for increased trust and understanding with our LGBT+ and houseless community members,” the statement concluded. “We encourage anyone with information about this incident to reach out to the Detective Division.”
The Change.org petition demands that the department be held accountable for alleged negligence in the investigation and that the state medical examiner release Gulley’s autopsy records to the public. See the petition here.
In Thursday (June 18) night’s episode of “REVOLT Black News,” Eboni K. Williams takes a look at the Black LGBTQ community and their deaths that are neglected from the spotlight. Watch tonight at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT.