Due to outcry from LGBTQ advocates and local politicians, the Newark Department of Public Safety has reopened an investigation into the death of 26-year-old Ashley Moore, a Black transgender woman from New Jersey, who was found dead in April.
Moore’s body was found on the street outside a YMCA in Newark on April 1, about a week before her birthday. Police responded to a call of a sick or injured person around 4:10 a.m. and found her “unresponsive.” She was transported to a local hospital, where she was pronounced dead.
Moore’s death was ruled a suicide. But some local LGBTQ advocates and members of Moore’s family expressed suspicion over the classification, claiming that there were strangle marks on Moore’s neck.
Critics have accused police of failing to thoroughly investigate her death and alleging that they did not reach out to Ashley’s mother, Starlet Carbin.
“Starlet found out about her daughter’s death when she went to her Facebook page to wish her a happy birthday. That’s when her world fell apart,” a website calling for justice for Moore, set up by the Newark LGBTQ Center, reads.
“It would be many more months before Starlet would receive a police report, and she has yet to receive a coroner’s report…. The police report she eventually received included information indicating there were gruesome strangle marks on Ashley’s neck. Yet there was no investigation,” the website continues.
“The police originally told Starlet that her daughter had likely been hit by a car. Yet there was zero evidence of that, and the police report itself didn’t match that determination.”
Advocates also objected to the fact that Moore was misgendered in the police report. They also claim that Moore posted a video to Instagram in 2018 in which she claimed she was robbed on her way to work.
However, she alleged that police refused to file a report due to her gender identity, with one police officer calling her a “disgusting fag.”
The Newark LGBTQ Center has set up a GoFundMe campaign to create a legal fund to support an investigation into Moore’s death, as well as any other cases involving hate crimes or violence directed against members of the LGBTQ community, particularly trans men and women of color.
The money from that fund will be used to hire a lawyer to represent Moore’s family in the death investigation. The campaign has since raised more than $7,000.
According to Newark Patch, Newark Public Safety Director Anthony Ambrose said there has been no evidence to justify overruling the coroner’s finding of suicide as the manner of death, but he reached out to Essex County Prosecutor Theodore Stephens and asked the county’s Homicide Task Force to review the evidence surrounding Moore’s death and report back their findings. The Homicide Task Force has since agreed to reopen the investigation.
Newark Mayor Ras Baraka, who also called for reopening the investigation into Moore’s death, issued a statement expressing condolences to her family and promised to ensure the inquiry is transparent to the public.
“We believe the police followed all necessary policies and procedures around Ashley Moore’s death, but the handling of the case has raised concerns of her family and the LGBTQ community,” Baraka said. “We fully expect to inform them of our police actions and answer any lingering questions they may have about Ms. Moore’s death to the absolute best of our ability.
“We also want to assure them that we have listened to LGBTQ activists and used their input to draw up the first police policy to treat the LGBTQ community with the respect and dignity all human beings and their families deserve,” he added.
“That policy was adopted by the N.J. State Attorney General and deemed a best practice throughout the state. Our officers participate in ongoing training to engage the LGBTQ community with sensitivity and common decency we expect from all their interactions with the public.
“The commitment to the health, safety and dignity of all residents despite race, gender, ethnic origin or sexual preference has been a benchmark of my administration,” Baraka concluded. “We live by those values and, once again, I want to assure the family of Ms. Moore they will be applied here.”
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