Updated: Jun 20, 2020
Titi Gulley, a Black transgender woman, was found hanged from a tree on May 27, 2019 in Rocky Butte Park, near a homeless encampment. Her death was ruled a suicide by the Oregon Medical Examiner’s Office. However, more than a year later the verdict is still unsettling by family and friends of Gulley, who believe she was killed “due to homophobic and transphobic violence”.
There are conflicting reports on the proper spelling of Gulley’s first name as well as her true sexual orientation. There are a few articles that spell it “Tete”, while others spell it as “Titi”. Gulley’s family knew her as a cisgender gay man named Otis who dressed in drag occasionally.
The family has been quoted using he/him pronouns. However, Gulley presented herself as a woman with friends, using she/her pronouns, and went by the name Titi.
Her death has received new attention this week as multiple reports of black people in the US found hanging from trees surface. According to the Portland Mercury, friends believe that she was murdered and hung from a tree to make it appear as a suicide.
Gulley suffered from mental health issues, but the family insists that she was never suicidal. Relatives of Gulley say that the police have brushed off their attempts to pass on information they have received, including a potential suspect.
Gulley’s brother Richard Bryant, a former police cadet, told the newspaper, “They treat a lot of homeless people like they don’t mean nothing to this earth… in the homeless community, other people are willing to do hurt to more people because they know their voices won’t be heard. They’re just homeless.”
A petition has been formed on Change.org, demanding a full investigation of the incident and calling for the death records to be released. So far it has attracted more than 500,000 signatures.
The petition reads: “The cause of death was determined to be suicide at the scene. Tete’s mother was told the autopsy concluded it had been a suicide, but she was not given any paperwork. The Oregon medical examiner has also denied both the OPB and Portland Mercury for a records request, saying there isn’t sufficient public interest. This petition is to prove otherwise.
[The police should] be held accountable for failure to investigate critical evidence of witnesses and key suspects and to remedy this negligence immediately. The PPB has also failed to keep Tete’s family informed and has caused her family members a huge amount of stress and exhaustion. The PPB is allowing injustice to happen and must conduct a proper and thorough investigation of the death of Tete Gulley.”
With continued pressure from the public and the petition receiving over the half a million signatures, the case has been reopened and police call for anyone with evidence to come forward.
In a statement the Portland Police Bureau said, “The Police Bureau has learned from a media report that there may be community members with additional information and/or video of the incident. A member of the detective division has made contact with family in an attempt to gather more details."
The police bureau added, “We continue to strive for increased trust and understanding with our LGBT+ and houseless community members. We encourage anyone with information about this incident to reach out to the Detective Division.”
If anyone has any information about the death of Titi Gulley, please contact Detectives at (503) 823-0400. Detectives will share this information with the Medical Examiner’s Office. To sign the petition, click here.