Charlotte police will talk with FBI about shooting death

The obituary heading for Derrick Lee Banner
The obituary heading for Derrick Lee Banner

Charlotte police say they are communicating with the FBI about the shooting death Tuesday of a person who friends say was a transgender woman.

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department won’t comment on whether the death of a person it identified as Derrick Lee Banner – referred to by friends as Derricka – was a hate crime. The investigation continues.

“There has been no information or evidence gathered at this point of the investigation to indicate that Derrick Lee Banner was killed because of gender identity,” police spokesman Robert Tufano said Thursday.

North Carolina’s hate crime statute does not include sexual orientation or gender identity.

For a North Carolina case to be prosecuted as a hate crime, the federal government has to bring charges under the Matthew Shepard Act, named for a student who was tortured and murdered near Laramie, Wyo. Police departments can report suspected hate crimes to the FBI to investigate.

An FBI spokeswoman in Charlotte said Thursday that the agency is not involved in the investigation.

Banner, 26, of Lenoir, was found sitting in a vehicle on Rosetta Street, dead, as rain and wind from Hurricane Irma lashed Charlotte at 3 a.m. Tuesday. Banner was pronounced dead at the scene of an apparent gunshot wound.

Detectives charged Montavious Sanchez Berry, 18, late Tuesday with murder, armed robbery and shooting into an occupied vehicle, police said.

Tufano said Banner and Berry “had communicated on previous occasions.” Homicide detectives ask that anyone with information about the incident call 704-432-8477 or call Crime Stoppers at 704-334-1600.

Friends said on Facebook that Derricka Banner was a transgender woman, and called the death one inspired by hate. Banner’s obituary referred to Derrick “Ms. Bow Bow” Lee Banner. A family member didn’t return a phone call Thursday.

Banner’s killing was the 64th homicide in Charlotte this year.

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Commenters on Facebook say a Charlotte shooting victim was a transgender woman. Facebook post

The news site QNotes, which serves the Carolinas’ lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, called it “the second murder of a trans woman of color in Charlotte this year.”

A transgender woman named Brian Fitzgerald Sherrell Faulkner, 46, was found injured beside a garbage bin in Charlotte last Nov. 30. Faulkner died May 16 from injuries sustained in the attack, police said.

QNotes said Banner’s death was the 20th known murder of a transgender person, mostly people of color, in the U.S. this year. At the time of Faulkner’s death, Equality NC, the state’s largest LGBTQ advocacy organization, said transgender people “are facing a national epidemic of violence.”

Charlotte will host the North Carolina Trans Pride event Friday through Sunday.

The North Carolina chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America said Banner was at least the 21st transgender person killed in the U.S. this year.

“I am angry that yet again another black transwoman has become the victim of a heinous gun crime,” Christy Clark, volunteer chapter leader, said in a statement. “My thoughts go out to Derricka’s family and friends, as well as to the LGBTQ community in North Carolina. We can no longer afford to ignore just how much of a threat gun violence is to so many marginalized communities in our state, as well as our entire country. Public safety is a right that should be enjoyed by all Americans, and not just some.”

Gary Schwab contributed.

Bruce Henderson: 704-358-5051, @bhender