Answers sought in murder of Black trans man in Florida

Tee Arnold was 36 years old.
Tee Arnold was 36 years old.
Human Rights Campaign

A Black transgender man was fatally shot in southern Florida earlier this month in a case that is not currently considered by authorities to be a hate crime, though some advocates are more skeptical of the circumstances surrounding the man’s death.

Tee Arnold, 36, was found wounded with a gunshot wound at the 800 Block of Silks Run, which is near The Village at Gulfstream Park shopping plaza in Hallandale Beach. A Hallandale police spokesperson told Gay City News that the case is not being investigated as a hate crime, but would not elaborate on whether there are any suspects, citing the ongoing investigation.

Arnold was initially listed in critical condition and taken to Aventura Medical Center, where he died of his injuries days later on on April 7.

In the aftermath of the shooting, Aaron Smith, the Hallandale Beach police chief, described the case as an “isolated incident,” according to News 10 Miami, an ABC affiliate. But some others aren’t dismissing foul play or, more specifically, the possibility that Arnold was killed due to his gender identity — especially in light of reports that Arnold had previously conveyed that he was in danger. The National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC), a national civil rights group serving Black LGBTQ individuals, described Arnold’s death as one “driven by hate of a trans man.”

“Weeks prior to his death, Tee posted that his life was in danger, indicating that if the police had taken action on the threats against his life, this tragedy could have been prevented,” NBJC director of public policy and programs Victoria Kirby York said in a written statement. “We also cannot ignore that this murder occurred in Florida, a state that has been leading the charge in anti-trans legislation and rhetoric. Similarly, we cannot forget that, more often than not, requests for law enforcement protection from Black LGBTQ+/SGL people are not provided even though we face disproportionate hate-driven violence.”

A statewide LGBTQ organization known as Florida Equality also rejected Smith’s assertion, saying that the murder was “not isolated.” Rather, Arnold’s death was “fueled by the pervasive anti-trans rhetoric that permeates our culture and political landscape,” the organization said in a post on social media.

“We need to continue confronting this reality and stand together against bigotry and violence,” Florida Equality wrote. “We urge anyone with information to come forward and stand with us in solidarity as we Honor Tee With Action and all those who have been lost to senseless violence.” 

Arnold was a dedicated member of his family who played a prominent role in the lives of his nieces and nephews, according to NBJC. His interests included music, travel, and food, and he was set to celebrate his birthday in Bali.

Arnold’s death comes during a year when more than a half-dozen transgender or non-binary individuals have been killed so far this year, according to the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), which has tracked deaths in the community since 2013. HRC tallied 32 murders of trans or non-binary individuals last year and 41 in 2022.