Police investigating the shooting death of 16-year-old teenager condemned an Iowa state senator for invoking the teen as part of an effort to add transgender protections to Iowa's hate crime statute.
The Hawk Eye reports that Kedarie Johnson was found dead in the South Hill neighborhood of Burlington, Iowa, last week, having been shot at least five times. As of Tuesday, police still had not released any information as to the motive behind the crime.
But they did break their silence on Wednesday to dispute an account of the crime given on the state Senate floor by state Senator Matt McCoy, a Democrat from Des Moines.
In comments in support of a law that would include gender identity and gender expression as possible motivations in Iowa's hate crime laws, Iowa Public Radio reports McCoy referred to Johnson as transgender and mentioned details of the crime that could signify a hate crime.
The law passed the Democrat-controlled Senate along party lines, but Burlington police immediately denounced McCoy's statements.
"I don’t know where he got his information from, but what he provided to the Senate was not true. I didn’t hear anything that was accurate in what he mentioned," Lt. Jeff Klein told Tri States Public Radio.
McCoy later told Tri States Public Radio he had incorrectly identified Johnson as transitioning from female to male, but that he was a boy questioning his gender identity. He stood by the rest of his statements.
Johnson's stepfather, Demetrice Perkins, told The Hawk Eye that his stepson was publicly out as gay, and that he does think the killing was a hate crime. Iowa's hate crime statute does cover sexual orientation.
"My son was gay, but everybody knew that," Perkins told The Hawk Eye. "Everybody loved him."
The latter was certainly evident as hundreds of mourners turned out for Johnson's funeral at Burlington High School on Wednesday. The Des Moines Register reported people remembered Johnson for his sense of style, his generosity, and his penchant for dancing.
Tributes to Johnson have poured out from many Burlington-area social media accounts.
“I’m going to miss him, his leggings, his heart,” Burlington High School secretary Shaunda Campbell told the Register. “He had a knack for wanting to make everyone’s day better.”