Kendall Stephens, a transgender woman of color and leader in Philadelphia’s LGBTQ+ community, was attacked by a mob of people in her Point Breeze home on the night of Aug. 24. Stephens suffered a broken nose, a bruised rib, a busted lip, a gash on her head, bloody gums and cuts on her legs and feet. Philadelphia Police are currently investigating the case.
The attack took place around 11 p.m., not long after Stephens and her 12-year-old goddaughter heard a group of people kicking up a commotion outside her house, apparently fighting and throwing liquor bottles. Stephens’ other teenage goddaughter was also home at the time.
When Stephens asked the disorderly group to move along, her words devolved into an argument with one of her assailants, who forced her way into Stephens’ home as she turned to go back inside. The attacker began punching Stephens, who tried to retaliate, and was joined by three other women from the mob who bashed Stephens with household objects, stomped on her and pulled her hair. “They were also yelling [hateful] words, they called me an effing tranny,” Stephens said.
Two or three men from the mob eventually entered Stephens’ house and herded out the women, but continued to beat Stephens when she was unconscious. Part of the assault was captured on Stephens’ security camera before her attackers burglarized it.
Stephens said the police officers who initially responded to the 911 call failed to take her statement or even classify the crime as an aggravated assault, telling her to file a private civil complaint.
“I said, ‘wait a minute, they came into my home and attacked me, how is this a civil complaint?’ It was an aggravated assault,” Stephens said, adding that the officers also spoke with one of the assailants, without verifying her identity, who gave them false information.
“They very much came across like they didn’t want to get involved and they were aggravated,” Stephens added. “When I kept trying to say, ‘this is what happened to me, I am in pain,’ they [said,] ‘you didn’t call an ambulance so it can’t be that bad.’”
When Stephens and her husband Avery went to the 17th district police department to report the crime, the lieutenant there did not take her report seriously, she told PGN.
“He was very dismissive and nasty with me the whole time. He said, ‘I’m not going to allow a civilian to tell me the difference between a civil assault and aggravated assault.’ He said my injuries were not that bad.”
Celena Morrison, director of Philadelphia’s Office of LGBT Affairs, came to Kendall’s aid, but the police officers at the 17th precinct antagonized her as well, according to Stephens.
“It is always troubling and deeply upsetting to see acts of violence carried out against my fellow trans Philadelphians,” Morrison said in an email statement. “Our office will continue to do all we can to work with the Philadelphia Police Department, community members, and others to ensure that trans and non-binary folks are able to feel and be safe in their city.”
When Stephens ultimately got to the hospital and told the nurse what happened, the nurse called 911. An officer came to the hospital, who then called her superior, who in turn sent another set of detectives to the scene. They took Stephens’ statement and those of her two goddaughters.
A spokesperson from the Philadelphia Police Department (PPD) Office of Media Relations/Public Affairs said that due to the active nature of the case, “with future prosecution expected,” the investigating officers were unavailable for comment.
Deja Lynn Alvarez, a trans community activist and co-chair of the Philly LGBT Police Liaison Committee, has been looking into Stephens’ case. She said she believes the attack was a hate crime.
“From the way that Kendall describes it, once they went after her, the things that they were saying, one could easily interpret that,” Alvarez said. “This speaks to why we need hate crime legislation in the state of Pennsylvania. We have zero LGBTQ legislation when it comes to hate crimes. If somebody is attacking you, and you’re a trans person and they’re calling you ‘tranny’ and ‘man’…that’s all part of it, that’s hate coming out while they’re committing these horrible violent acts against you.”
As of August 26 no arrests have been made, but the charges in Stephens’ case were changed to aggravated assault in the police report, thanks to Alvarez’s communications with PPD Deputy Commissioner of Patrol Operations Joel Dales. Dales has been investigating everything that happened in Stephens’ case, “talking with the district commander over there in the 17th district to find out about the officers that showed up on the scene, why things were done the way they were done,” Alvarez said. “The detectives think that there will be an arrest made soon, rather quickly in this.”
Stephens set up a GoFundMe fundraiser to help put a stop to violence toward trans women of color, half of the proceeds of which will go to the William Way LGBT Community Center. In a text message, Stephens said, “Change must come.”