Five months ago, Khalina Goodlow came to a startling realization: Her name could have been added to the long list of transgender people killed in 2021. Though her life may have been mourned by her community with a moment of silence, her own voice would have been silenced.
Shortly before 5 a.m. on Aug. 1, a man shot into her home in Justice, Illinois, after he forced her to show him her genitals, Goodlow told Windy City Times. Today, she is still recovering from the experienceand living in fear as she waits for the person responsible to be caught.
"I have not given up on getting justice for myself, but also for other trans women," she said. "On Trans Day of Remembrance, it could have been my picture and a candle with my name on it."
At least 50 transgender and gender non-conforming people were killed last year, making it the deadliest year on record for the community. But that number is not a full representation of the issue. Some people's stories go unreported, and many are misgendered after their deaths. Others, like Goodlow, survive violence but are stuck waiting for justice. She said the Justice Police Department has not contacted her since Aug. 3, when she was shown a photo lineup.
As a Black trans woman, Goodlow said all she wants is safety. A manknown to her only as "Jay"took that away from her. She said she met him in her apartment complex's parking lot, and he asked for her number. A few days later, he called and asked to be let up into her apartment. Thinking he was a different person, also known to her as "Jay," she said yes.
But when he came into her apartment, she said he brought her to a bedroom, flashed a gun and asked her to pull down her underwear so he could see her genitals. She realized that someone must have told him she was transand that she was in danger.
"If it wasn't for me having sex reassignment surgery, I would be in the casket today. I'd be dead for months now," she said. "That is the problem. Trans women just don't feel safe."
The ability to "pass" and be seen as a woman can mean life or death for many trans women, particularly trans women of color. Gender-affirming surgeries aren't financially possible or necessarily wanted by all trans women, though Goodlow feels that her own saved her in that moment.
But she still needed to get Jay out of her apartment. She started yelling, telling him to leave and asking why he'd come there with a gun. At the same time, she knew she couldn't imply she was transto be safe, she needed him to think she was a cisgender woman.
As she got him to the front of the apartment, she said he told her he should shoot her in the face anyway. So when she had the opportunity, she shut the door on him. Nervous he'd still try to shoot into the apartment, she ran to another bedroom and hid under the bed. Minutes later, she heard gunshots and called 911.
When Justice Police Department officers responded, they discovered holes in Goodlow's ceiling and the glass patio door shattered, according to a copy of the police incident report provided by Goodlow. The report also states that police collected gun shell evidence, conducted a canvas of the surrounding apartments and observed security cameras near the apartment.
Windy City Times requested a copy of the incident report from the Justice Police Department, as well as records showing documented actions taken on the case following the initial incident report and communications between Goodlow and police regarding the case. However, these Illinois Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests were denied because the case remains an active investigation.
Following the 911 call, Justice Police Department also interviewed Goodlow and made a summary of her statements on the report, which matches with the information given to Windy City Times.
"They stood there asking me questionsthey treated me nicely," Goodlow said. "But they had this smirk on their face, like a smile, like they were laughing at me."
Justice Police Department Deputy Chief Michael Kurschner said in an email that he reviewed body camera footage from the responding officers and that the officers "acted in a professional manner and took the report very seriously." He added that this body camera footage would be made available at a later point.
However, Goodlow feels frustrated that the Justice Police Department has not reached out with updates to the case. After her experience with gun violence, she moved away from Justice to protect herself. Even now, she said she still suffers, struggling with nightmares and trauma from that night.
"I just want to live my life and I want to be comfortable and I definitely want my safety," Goodlow said. "I don't think any trans woman should need to move for safety, though."
On Aug. 3, Goodlow was brought into the station to review a photo lineup. She said that she did not recognize any of the men as "Jay" at the time.
Justice Police Department Detective John Murray said that when Goodlow did not identify the man that police felt strongly was the offender, they were set back in the investigation. Goodlow said that she would have been able to identify the man out of a live lineup, since he had a distinctive tattoo on his chest, which was noted on the police report as "spread[ing] from one shoulder to the other, was dark in color and…[looked] like a city skyline." However, Murray said lineups must be based mainly on faces for them to be fair.
Still, Goodlow said she wants progress and communication from the police. Based on case files, Murray said it doesn't appear that previous investigators reached out to her after Aug. 3, and he planned to follow up with her the first week of January.
With the amount of information Goodlow gave the policethe phone number of "Jay," a description of him and his car, and that he was friends with her neighbor's sonshe feels the case should be solved by now.
Murray said the department submitted gun shell evidence to the state crime lab on Oct. 12 and received it Nov. 18, with no evidence being recovered from the shell casings. At that time, he said Justice Police investigators were focused on the homicide of a 15-year-old girl.
"We're a small department and we need to work with priorities," he said. "With the homicide we had Monday before Thanksgiving, it's pretty much taken up most of our time, and understandably so."
He said that now, investigators are visiting cases "by priority" that occurred prior to the homicide. Murray was brought on the case in late December, shortly after Windy City Times initially reached out to the Justice Police Department. As the two previous investigators focus on the homicide investigation, he said his next steps will involve combing through surveillance footage received from local businesses. He also planned to contact the state's attorney office to pursue the case.
"I just want to make sure that when we take the next avenue, that we're going to be on track here so we can get this thing wrapped up successfully," Murray said.
Justice Police Department anticipates the case's status to change in the next few weeks, according to an email from Deputy Chief Kurschner. However, Goodlow wondered why there wasn't more action on the case after Aug. 3, considering the homicide Murray referenced occurred on Nov. 22, leaving over a 100 days to make progress. She feels her case has been sidelined.
"They haven't contacted me to do a [physical] lineup," she said. "I'm finding it hard to understand, that if they had a suspect in mind, why haven't they brought him in and brought it to my attention?"
Because Murray wasn't involved with the investigation until recently, he said he couldn't answer why previous investigators haven't brought in any suspects. In general, he said police officers sometimes do not question someone when they feel it would be premature and need more evidence or identification to move forward.
Ultimately, Goodlow said she just wants justice and to be safe. For her, safety means more than survival. It means being able to live her truth without threat, and for every other trans woman to be able to do the same.
"Danger was right in my house and I could have gotten killed," she said. "I don't want that to happen to any girl."
Goodlow recognizes that her experience is one of many, and that the killings of trans women is a systemic issue. So often, society blames trans women for the violence committed against them, she said, but they just want to live their lives.
As she recovers from her experience, she's trying to do just that: build a new life and live it.
"I just want to keep moving," Goodlow said. "The sky's the limit, and I don't want to be harmed trying to get to it."