Elected officials are again alleging a “hate crime” motivation after a man was found dead from a gunshot wound in south Minneapolis late last month. Another 25-year-old Minneapolis man has since been arrested and charged in the case.
Miguel Reed Stillday, 38, was found unresponsive on Nov. 29 just before 9 a.m. in a courtyard on 4th Avenue South just south of East Lake Street.
Police were originally dispatched to the location on a report of a person “down” who was reportedly not breathing. The dispatcher relayed to police that the person down was a male in a maroon hat, gray winter coat, and jeans, according to police dispatch audio at the time.
Police arrived and requested a supervisor to the scene and asked the dispatcher if there had been any ShotSpotter activations at the location.
Minneapolis police later released a statement saying that an adult had been found outside at the location with an apparent fatal gunshot wound.
The medical examiner subsequently identified the decedent as Stillday and reported the cause of death as a gunshot wound to the head.
This gunshot decedent has been identified as Miguel Reed Stillday, 38, of St. Paul.
Cause of death: Gunshot wound to the head pic.twitter.com/gnIr34WFsl
— CrimeWatchMpls (@CrimeWatchMpls) December 2, 2023
Stillday was also known by the name Savannah Ryan Williams, including in official state court records, and has been reported to identify as a transgender female.
Following the release of Stillday’s identity, several state and local politicians began making statements about Stillday’s death. While referring to Stillday as Savannah Williams, they suggested or implied that his transgender identity was the reason for his murder.
Transgender state Rep. Leigh Finke, DFL-St. Paul, led a press conference Thursday at the State Capitol held by the Queer Legislative Caucus “demanding legislative action against transphobia and violence,” which was focused on the death of Stillday/Williams.
Finke began by stating, “Savannah should be alive today. Because Savannah is a trans woman, she is dead.” Finke went on to state that trans people face “a constant threat of lethal violence in the United States.”
Finke referenced the “trans refuge” law passed in the last legislative session in Minnesota. The bill established Minnesota as a “safe haven” for trans people and those seeking so-called gender affirming care, including treatments aimed at children. But Finke said that’s “not enough” to keep trans people safe.
Finke made mention of state offices previously created for investigating “missing and murdered indigenous relatives” and “missing and murdered black women and girls,” hinting at the possibility of proposing a similar office focused on trans violence investigations.
A statement by the Queer Caucus on the House of Representatives website openly stated their aim is to pass more legislation in response to Stillday’s death without detailing exactly what that legislation may entail.
During the press conference, Amber Muhm, an outreach worker from the Aliveness Project, called for “funding for services … to trans women and fems, especially trans women of color,” who Muhm said are disproportionately affected “by everything going on.”
Muhm also called for legislative action to end the “trans panic defense” in Minnesota, calling it “very relevant to this case.” According to LGBTQ advocates, the trans panic defense allows for a suspect to argue in court that their actions were spurred by the victim’s actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. Minnesota legislation introduced in 2021 to limit the use of the “reaction” defense in court cases failed to pass.
Following the Lake Street transit station assault in late February, politicians and mainstream media again jumped on the bandwagon, implying and amplifying the narrative that the brutal assault was a hate crime even though there was little to no indication in court documents that the crime was bias motivated. Hennepin County Attorney Mary Moriarty initially included a bias-crime enhancement to the robbery and assault charges against one of the two suspects, but quietly modified the charges to drop the bias enhancement just days later. That fact went unreported by mainstream media which had fueled nationwide hype about the assault and the bias implication at the time. The two suspects in that assault were ultimately offered plea deals that dismissed the most serious charges and resulted in zero prison time for either suspect.
The two suspects in the August Nudieland mass shooting still have not been publicly identified by law enforcement, so the motivations of the shooters aren’t known beyond speculation. One person was killed and five others were injured in the shooting that took place during a backyard punk rock concert at the location, which was reported to be a haven for the queer and trans punk community. The witnesses present at the backyard concert were reported at the time to be less than cooperative with police in providing information about what transpired.
Other elected officials weighed in on social media following Stillday’s fatal shooting and implied that Stillday’s death was related to his gender identity, including Lt. Governor Peggy Flanagan.
My heart breaks over the violent death of Savannah Ryan Williams. Tom and I send our deepest sympathies to her friends, family and community.
Our trans neighbors – especially women of color – should not live in fear. We’re with you.
— Lt. Governor Peggy Flanagan (@LtGovFlanagan) December 8, 2023
Minneapolis City Council members Robin Wonsley, Jason Chavez, and Jeremiah Ellison also made posts implying Stillday was killed because of gender identity.
My heart goes out to the family and community of Savannah Ryan Williams, a trans woman who was killed on Lake Street just last week.
A rise in anti-trans rhetoric in public spaces is putting our transgender siblings in danger. https://t.co/P666XSgjc8
— Robin4mpls (@robin4mpls) December 8, 2023
Deep appreciation to my colleague for raising this:
RIP Savannah Ryan Williams 🕊️💜
We owe it to each other to end anti-trans violence. Savannah deserved life, and to continue experiencing the love of her community. https://t.co/Q1TcTDdYAf
— Jeremiah Ellison (@jeremiah4north) December 8, 2023
The shooting and charges
Damarean Kaylon Bible, 25, has been charged with second-degree murder with intent, but not premeditated, in the death of Stillday. Bible has not been charged with any bias-motivated crime.
Charges say many parts of Bible’s movements that morning were captured on surveillance video starting about 5 a.m. when he was seen walking toward the crime scene area. Video showed him leave the area about 5:45 a.m., walking north on South 4th Avenue toward Lake Street and then to the Lake Street LRT station. Investigators later tracked Bible on video from the Lake Street LRT station to downtown Minneapolis where he exited the LRT at 5th Street and Nicollet Mall and eventually entered an apartment building at 95 South 10th Street, which is listed as his address of residence on the criminal complaint.
Investigators set up surveillance while a warrant was obtained, and Bible was eventually taken into custody as he left the building. A search of his residence turned up a 9mm handgun with no serial number and a .22 caliber rifle.
In a jailhouse phone call to his father, Bible said he “just murdered someone.” He stated he felt sorry for killing the victim and knew he wasn’t God, but he “had to do it,” the complaint says.
When confronted with video evidence, Bible admitted that he shot the victim after initially denying his involvement. Bible told investigators he walked past the victim who was sitting in a bus shelter on Lake Street. Bible said as he passed by, Stillday made a sexual suggestion and Bible responded affirmatively.
The pair proceeded to a mid-block courtyard on 4th Avenue South where Stillday performed oral sex on Bible, he told investigators.
Bible said he had his 9mm gun in his pocket and that the victim made him feel “suspicious” during the sex act. Bible said Stillday continued to make him suspicious after the sex act was completed, so he shot Stillday in the head from just inches away.
In a twist of irony, the courtyard where the alleged murder occurred is directly across the street from the office of Mad Dads, a group that has received tens of thousands of dollars from the City of Minneapolis for “violence interrupter” activities, city documents show. The group has also received hundreds of thousands of dollars in funds in the form of grants, gifts, and donations from other sources for similar activities, according to their latest public 990.
A charge of first-degree aggravated robbery in a separate incident was also filed against Bible following his arrest. Charges in that case say he robbed a victim at gunpoint on Nov. 5 at 9th and Nicollet Mall. Investigators were able to identify Bible as the suspect in that case through surveillance videos that captured him as he walked back to his apartment at 95 South 10th Street where he entered without his face mask. Building staff also verified the key fob used to enter the building belonged to Bible.
Stillday has a history of convictions on violent crimes, including at least four for felony robbery and one for first-degree burglary of an occupied dwelling, as well as two other felonies that include third-degree burglary and first-degree damage to property. Court records show that Stillday used over a dozen aliases and at least four alternate birthdates.
Stillday’s most recent felony conviction was in January 2019 for second-degree aggravated robbery during which he implied to the victim that he had a gun. Stillday was sentenced to St. Cloud Correctional Facility for 60 months. Under Minnesota’s two-thirds sentencing rule and with credit for six months of time served before sentencing, Stillday should have been incarcerated until about January 2022.
Documents obtained by Crime Watch show that Stillday was placed on an early release program by the Minnesota Department of Corrections in September 2021, about three month before his scheduled release date.
Stillday was still on supervised release from prison at the time of the shooting and had also been a wanted fugitive since August. Posts from Crime Watch Minneapolis show Stillday/Williams had been listed as a wanted fugitive at least two other times in the last 18 months.
During Finke’s press conference, the family was asked by media whether they knew if Stillday/Williams was a sex worker. A man in the group of friends and relatives behind Finke seemed confused at the question and then answered, “no, she wasn’t.” The man wasn’t identified during the press conference, but he resembled a man that appeared in a video posted last month on Stillday/Williams’ Facebook page titled “My Husband.”
During Finke’s press conference Thursday, state Sen. Lindsey Port, DFL-Burnsville, said FBI statistics show “hate crimes based on gender identity” increased 32% from 2021 to 2022.
A New York Times article dated June 2022 noted a report that revealed a “sharp rise” in those “identifying as transgender,” saying the number of young people who identify as transgender has “nearly doubled” in recent years.
Over the same period, there was an overall rise in violent crime across the country since 2020 that has only recently begun to subside in the last year. While some rates of crime have fallen since high levels in 2021, some categories like aggravated assault and homicide were still above pre-pandemic levels in 2022, according to website Statista.
The Minnesota Department of Public Safety (DPS) in its 2021 Uniform Crime Report stated that violent crime increased nearly 22% over 2020. Murder increased over 8.5% in Minnesota from 2020 to 2021, according to the report. Specifically, aggravated assault rose over 33% from 2020 to 2021. However, DPS reported that bias crimes actually fell in Minnesota from 238 incidents in 2021 to 168 in 2022.
FBI and Human Rights Campaign data cited by Clarity on X last month showed that transgender people are not being killed at disproportionate rates compared to non-transgender people so far in 2023. The data appear to show that non-transgender people are killed at three times the rate of transgender people.
Today – on Transgender Day of Remembrance – we are being told that transgender people are targeted and killed at alarming and disproportionate rates.
This is not true.
Based on statistics from the FBI and transgender advocacy groups, non-transgender people are killed at rates 3… pic.twitter.com/X1xR0I2UMk
— Clarity (@covid_clarity) November 21, 2023
The Biden administration last month held a ceremony on Trans Remembrance Day that noted the deaths of 26 transgender people killed in the last year. However, the Federalist noted in a report that at least three of them were shot and killed while committing a crime or tangling with law enforcement.
Others among the 26 people listed died in hit-and-runs, shootings, and domestic violence that plague cities all across the U.S., the Federalist said.
A quote from the report stated:
“The White House paints the 26 transgender people as victims whose deaths were tragedies linked to their gender identity. Several family members of the deceased even called the deaths the result of ‘targeted shootings,’ but none of their accounts or the reports on their loved one’s death produced a direct link between the fatal violence and the transphobia the White House claims has gripped the nation.”
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Minnesota Crime Watch & Information publishes news, info and commentary about crime, public safety and livability issues in Minneapolis, the Twin Cities and Greater Minnesota.