A 26-year-old white trans woman, Jo Acker, was one victim of a mass shooting in Boise, Idaho. Jo worked at the mall as a security guard and reports indicate she bravely confronted the shooter while escorting customers out of the building. Jo is the 42nd victim of the campaign of terror and violence targeting the trans community.
Acker was one of the victims of a tragic shooting at Boise Towne Square mall, which also resulted in five people injured. She was working security at the mall at the time of the shooting, according to her friend Dominique Cairistiona. Her family said Acker ran toward the suspect to stop him, likely saving many lives. The other individual who was fatally injured in the shooting was 49-year-old Roberto Padilla Arguelles.
In a statement, the Boise Police Department said the following: “Evidence indicates the suspect was contacted by a security officer on the first floor of the building near a department store on the west side of the building. The suspect shot the security officer who died at the scene.”
Jo served three years in the Army. She had a young daughter and a long term partner, Ray Dawn. From Popular Military:
Dawn described Acker as “one of the strangest, quirkiest individuals I’ve ever known.” Dawn said Acker “talked like a ’90s mom” using words like “goober,” and “adored” her two cats, Sebastian and Peridot, “more than anything in the world.” Acker “had the palate of a 10-year-old,” preferring foods like French fries and pizza to all else. Acker also was a proud nerd, said Dawn, often going to “nerd conventions,” and played a lot of World of Warcraft.
Acker joined the Army after high school, and was a forward artillery observer and a paratrooper charged with “jumping out of planes and doing follow-up missions on the ground,” according to Kevin Goncalves, who told the Idaho Statesman that he was stationed with Acker for two years in Florence, Italy. They also spent time in Latvia after Russia’s 2014 invasion of Ukraine, Goncalves said.
Jo did everything America asks of heroes – family, friends, military service, parent, hard-worker, and making the ultimate sacrifice to save others. Yet I suspect she will still be erased and debased because of her gender identity. People will not make the connection between her courage in coming out and transitioning and her actions at the mall. People will not read these quotes about Jo and stop to think how institutions like the Army, the gaming community, her family, and her employer(s) may have treated Jo, the impact those experiences had on her identity, or extrapolate to the bigger pictures around gender identity.
Jo’s family, like many others, are conflating pronouns and names as their grieve their sibling and relative. They are outraged that people are critical of them. On the one hand, they are grieving a terrible loss and deserve a little leeway – there’s a difference between a grieving family trying to get it right and a family that obliterates the identity of their slain loved one. On the other hand, they aren’t acknowledging that the trans community is also grieving or considering the impact of their choices on an entire community. Jo’s transition was not their private grief and her very public death is not a private grief. Jo’s legacy does not belong to her family or to certain members of her family. But her family can be instrumental in honoring her life and death to help other trans fox, to continue to do the work of understanding who Jo was and how she was growing into her true self even though she has died. Lashing out at the trans community and allies is not honoring Jo. My hope is that an organization like HRC, PFLAG, or so forth will connect with Jo’s family to support them and help them understand the toll of 42 murders on a community. Her family is not alone.
And that we don’t forget this was a mass shooting. Already the narrative around the murderer is twisting to “we didn’t know” or “what demons led him to this” without any acknowledgement of how he got the weapons. We continue to treat both incidents of mass murder and incidents of fatal violence against trans folx as this series of unique, individual, distinct actions rather than actual campaigns of terror and violence.
Jo is the forty-second trans, nonbinary or gender nonconforming person reported killed in 2021. Thirty-eight of these neighbors have been BIPOC.. 29 of these victims were under the age of 30. That we know of, as many deaths go unreported or unacknowledged. Since January 1, 2021, there has been a murder every 7 days on average.
Rest in power, Jo. Your friends, allies, neighbors, and family are working to ensure your legacy as a hero includes so much more than how you died. Your courage was bigger than the events in the mall. Living your truth is the greatest gift you left to your daughter, family, and friends. Thank you for sacrificing your life to save strangers. You didn’t have to make that decision. I hope those strangers will open their hearts and minds to your whole identity. I hope you find peace, Jo. I am so very sorry you didn’t have more time in this mortal coil.
May your memory be a revolution.
Our list of transgender, gender, and non-binary neighbors lost to violence in 2021. Please do not copy or share this list without attribution.
- Tyianna Davarea Alexandra — Chicago, Illinois. January 6, 2021. Age 28.
- Samuel Edmund Damián Valentín — Trujillo Alto, Puerto Rico. January 9, 2021. Age 21.
- Dominique Jackson — Jackson, Mississippi. January 25, 2021. Age 30.
- Bianca ‘Muffin’ Bankz — Atlanta, Georgia. January 21, 2021. Age 31.
- Fifty Bandzzz — Baton Rouge, Louisiana. January 28, 2021. Age 21.
- Alexus “Kimmy” Braxton — Miami, Florida. February 4, 2021. Age 45.
- Chynaa Carrillo — New Wilmington, Pennsylvania. February 18, 2021. Age 24.
- Jeffrey ‘JJ’ Bright — Ambridge, Pennsylvania. February 22, 2021. Age 16.
- Jasmine Cannady — Ambridge, Pennsylvania. February 22, 2021. Age 22.
- Jenna Franks — Jacksonville, North Carolina, February 24, 2021. Age 34. **
- Diamond Nicole ‘Kyree’ Sanders — Cincinnati, Ohio. March 3, 2021. Age 23.
- Rayanna Pardo — Los Angeles, California, March 17, 2021. Age 26. ***
- Aidelen Evans — Port Arthur, Texas, March 2021. Age 24 ****
- Dominique Lucious — Springfield, Missouri, April 8, 2021. Age 26.
- Jaida Peterson — Charlotte, North Carolina, April 4, 2021. Age 29.
- Remy Fennell — Charlotte, North Carolina, April 15, 2021. Age 28.
- Tiara Banks — Chicago, Illinois, April 21, 2021. Age 26.
- Natalia Smüt Lopez — San Jose, California, April 23, 2021. Age 24.
- Tiffany Thomas — Dallas, Texas, April 21, 2021. Age 38.
- Iris Santos — Houston, Texas, April 23, 2021. Age 22.
- Jahaira M. DeAlto — Boston, Massachusetts, May 2, 2021. Age 42.
- Keri Washington — Clearwater, Florida, May 1, 2021. Age 49.
- Danny Henson — Baltimore, Maryland, May 4, 2021. Age 31.
- Whispering Wind Bear Spirit — York, Pennsylvania, May 4, 2021 Age 41
- Sophie Vasquez — Atlanta, Georgia, May 4, 2021. Age 36.
- Serenity Hollis — Albany, Georgia, May 8, 2021. Age 24.
- Oliver “Ollie” Taylor — Gervais, Oregon, May 19, 2021. Age 27.
- Thomas Hardin — York, South Carolina, May 2, 2021. Age 35.
- Poe Black / Oliver Jackson — Slab City, Niland, California, May 11, 2021 (estimated). Age 21.
- EJ Boykin / Novaa Watson — Lynchburg, Virginia, May 14, 2021. Age 23.
- Taya Ashton — Suitland, Maryland, July 17, 2021. Age 20.
- Shai Vanderpump — Trenton, New Jersey, July 30, 2021. Age 23.
- Tierramarie Lewis — Cleveland, Ohio, June 12, 2021. Age 30.
- Miss CoCo — Dallas, Texas, August 7, 2021. Age 44.
- Pooh Johnson — Shreveport, Louisiana, August 23, 2021. Age 25.
- Disaya Monaee Smith — Dolton, Illinois, September 6, 2021. Age 32.
- Brianna Ulmer Hamilton — Chicago, Illinois, September 17, 2021. Age 25.
- Kier Laprice (Kartier) Solomon — Dallas, Texas, September 30, 2021. Age 21.
- Royal Poetical Starz — Miami Gardens, Florida, October 2, 2021. Age 26.
- Mel Robert Groves — Jackson, Mississippi, October 11, 2021. Age 25.
- Zoella “Zoey” Rose Martinez – Seattle, Washington, August 31, 2021. Age 20.
- Jo Ackers – Boise, Idaho, October 25, 2021. Age 26.
We are also still monitoring these suspicious deaths from 20/21 (in addition to the 44 documented killings.)
Haven Bailey — Villa Park, Illinois, May 24, 2021. Age 25.