Transgender advocates defend accused killer of bar patron

  • Article by: PAUL WALSH , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 27, 2011 - 10:05 PM

Chrishaun R. McDonald

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Advocates for transgender rights are rallying behind Chrishaun McDonald, charged with murder in a stabbing outside a south Minneapolis bar that the accused says was ignited by the victim's gay-bashing and racist remarks.

McDonald, 23, of Minneapolis, a person in transition from a man to a woman, is charged with second-degree murder in the June 5 stabbing of 47-year-old Dean Schmitz, of Richfield, outside the Schooner Tavern.

In response to an interview request from the Star Tribune, McDonald said in a letter from the Hennepin County jail that "none of this mess wouldn't be happening if it weren't for the victim and his group being rude and disrespectful to people they never knew."

McDonald was among a group that encountered Schmitz and other bar patrons shortly after midnight June 5 in a clash that started with Schmitz's remarks, according to the charges. McDonald told police that Schmitz charged and ran into scissors that McDonald was holding, the complaint added.

In the letter, McDonald said that Schmitz used crude language about McDonald being dressed as a woman but having male genitals.

According to McDonald's letter, Schmitz "makes another derogatory statement" and calls everyone in McDonald's group the N-word.

It was then that a woman in the group of white people hit McDonald in the face with a glass and opened a cut needing 12 stitches, the letter added.

Charles Pelfrey said Monday that it's not surprising that his brother would be accused of using such language.

"At times he can be like that, yes," Pelfrey said. "It depends on his mood, unfortunately."

McDonald was arrested moments after Schmitz was stabbed and confessed, according to the charges. However, McDonald said in the letter, the confession was "a big mistake [for] trying to cover up for one of my friends who actually did it. I didn't know exactly who, but I knew someone was defending me."

Police Sgt. William Palmer said Monday there have been no additional arrests in the killing but otherwise declined to say anything more about the case.

Katie Burgess, executive director of the Minneapolis-based Trans Youth Support Network and a friend of McDonald's, said that McDonald's supporters will rally Tuesday outside the Hennepin County Government Center. McDonald has a court appearance Tuesday morning.

McDonald's case "is a tragedy, but unfortunately it's not a rarity," Burgess wrote in announcing the rally.

"Transgender women of color face disproportionate levels of violence and harassment, and are pulled into prisons and jails at extremely high rates," Burgess added. "Although none of us knows all the details about what happened on June 5th, we do know that the deck is stacked" against McDonald.

Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482

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