Islan Nettles
YouTube screenshot

James Dixon, 24, was charged Tuesday with manslaughter and assault for fatally beating 21-year-old transgender woman Islan Nettles in New York City in August 2013, the New York Daily News reports.

According to the report, Nettles was walking with two other transgender friends in Harlem when Dixon and his friends saw them and began catcalling. But once Dixon and his friends realized that Nettles and her friends were transgender, the catcalls turned into “homophobic slurs” and quickly escalated to violence, the Daily News reports.

Manhattan prosecutor Nicholas Viorst explained what his office believes happened that night.

Dixon reportedly punched Nettles in the face, causing Nettles’ head to hit the pavement so hard that she incurred a serious brain injury that left her unconscious, Viorst said. Dixon allegedly continued to punch Nettles even while she lay on the ground motionless.

Nettles succumbed to her injuries days later. Dixon turned himself in a few days after the attack, after some confusion among his friends about who did what and who had actually struck Nettles.


One of Dixon’s friends had turned himself in first, saying that although he was too drunk to remember what happened, he might have committed the crime. He was discharged by prosecutors. The clothes Dixon wore fit the description of the perpetrator, so prosecutors felt confident moving forward with Dixon’s prosecution.

“Our office investigated this matter for a year and a half, judge, before we presented evidence [to a grand jury],” Viorst said in court, the Daily News notes.  

Dixon pleaded not guilty to the charges and is being held without bail pending his next court date March 19.


Nettles’ mom, Delores Nettles, is happy that justice is being pursued in the killing of her daughter, saying, “I’m overwhelmed and my God is good.” She did have concerns about how long it took for the case to move forward, “ … but at least now I can get a little closure,” she said.

Delores Nettles also thanked members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community for highlighting the case and providing support. Yesterday transgender actress Laverne Cox tweeted, “Finally an arrest for this senseless crime … ”

Read more at the New York Daily News.