Akron, Ohio police have made an arrest in the June 2020 murder of a Black trans person, Brian ‘Egypt’ Powers.
Brian was 43 years old when his body was discovered lifeless near a church in his hometown of Akron. He died from a single bullet that pierced both of his thighs. Investigators believed he walked about 100 yards before he collapsed. There was very little evidence at the scene.
According to reports, Brian identified as transgender but continued to use he/him pronouns and his birth name. He also sometimes used the name Egypt. His family has repeatedly described him as a part of the LGBTQ community and as a trans person.
Brian was assigned male at birth, but that does not mean he was a trans man. He was transitioning from identifying as a cisgender male. We would typically describe a trans man as a person assigned female at birth who transition to a male gender identity. However because Brian is gone and cannot offer more clarity, I am using transgender person to describe their lived experience. That is how his family describes him. Some outlets are using gender nonconforming. If you are struggling to understand all of this, step away from the concept of binary identities where men “become women” or women “become men” – that’s not a useful or accurate way to understand gender identity. And there’s no reality in which any of that would justify or explain murder. Perhaps if we stopped killing and harming our trans neighbors, we would have the luxury of conversations to better understand gender identity that is not the same as our own.
This is how gender, gender identity, and gender expression are complicated and require us to think outside of the binary. We don’t yet know if Brian’s gender identity was a motive in his murder, but we do know it was a vulnerability in our society.
Yet we also know from many media reports that Brian’s family loved him, honored his identity, referred to him as Brian and Egypt, and were well aware that his murder and the response from media and law enforcement was likely lesser because of his identities as a Black trans person. Brian’s family have been amazingly persistent and determined to see justice for him and create more safety for all trans folx and LGBTQ folx.
“He knew so many people. … He never met a stranger in his life. By the time you talked to him for five, 10 minutes, it’s like you’ve known him forever,”
48-year-old Bobby lee Bell was arrested by the U.S. Marshals Northern Ohio Violent Fugitive Task Force and Akron Police Department Bell was located on South Arlington Street in Akron and taken into custody without incident. Officers also recovered a gun and other evidence during the arrest.
Bell was also charged with the following:
- Weapons under disability
- Improper handling firearm in a motor vehicle
- Possession of crack cocaine
- Drug paraphernalia
He was arraigned Friday, March 10, in Akron Municipal Court and ordered held on a $1 million bond, court records show. His case is now pending before a grand jury.News5 Cleveland
A possible motive for Powers’ death was not given, but court records show Bell has a lengthy criminal history in Summit County. Most notably, he spent roughly a decade in prison for attempted aggravated murder and aggravated robbery in 1993. He was released by 2008, but later served more time for drug trafficking according to WKYC
Brian’s family has expressed relief about this turn of events, but acknowledge that the journey continues. Justice for Brian is undoubtedly going to bring more grief and pain. I hope the LGBTQ community in Akron continues to walk with Brian’s family and all trans neighbors.
This is the second arrest in a cold case that we’ve reported on this year, including the arrest in the 2021 murder of Angel Naira of Aliquippa, Beaver County. Sadly, most of the lives we memorialize see no such outcome.
And the goal is to remember Brian Egypt Powers. Here are a few photos from Facebook. Rest in power, Brian Egypt Powers.