CHARLOTTE — A woman who is transgender said she was arrested and put in jail, only to then be attacked.
She said the person who attacked her and sexually assaulted her was a Mecklenburg County deputy. That deputy was later fired and charged.
While Channel 9 does not usually identify sexual assault survivors, the woman wanted to share her story publicly with Channel 9′s Glenn Counts.
Heaven’s fight to live life as a trans woman goes back as far as middle school.
“I actually started to go to school with makeup and I remember one of my teachers telling me that I wasn’t allowed in her classroom with that on,” she said. “Of course there was a lot of bullying taking place and I had a family that wasn’t understanding.”
Heaven has had her struggles, including with the law. She was arrested this year on federal fraud-related charges and ended up in the Mecklenburg County Jail.
“I did think it was very unusual being a trans woman in a dormitory with nothing but males. You get a lot of sideways looks,” she said.
Because she is trans, she was allowed to shower by herself, but Heaven said that on May 15, an inmate managed to hide in that area and grabbed her when no one was looking.
“They took it upon themselves to actually go underneath the shower they were in, to the one beside mine and they reached under and grabbed my ankle and was like trying to signal me. I don’t know for what,” Heaven said.
Her attorney, Charles Everage, said that when Heaven complained to deputies, they were skeptical.
“I think it was really impermissible for them to look at her as a trans woman and jump to the conclusion that it must have been warranted contact,” Everage said.
Everage said deputies put Heaven in solitary confinement. It’s called “protective custody.”
He believes it led to another attack.
“At the start of his (the deputy’s) shift, he tried to make small talk and kept finding reasons to stop by the cell that I was being held in,” Heaven said.
Deputy Kyle Garrett Harris was assigned to keep watch over Heaven. She said it wasn’t long before Harris sexually assaulted her.
“That was actually my first encounter with him that same night the rape happened,” Heaven said. “I knew when he kept coming back, trying to be extra generous, there was another motive. Something just wasn’t right.”
Not knowing who to trust, Heaven waited for the next shift of officers to report what happened.
“There was no way possible I could just sit there and allow somebody to get away with something like that,” she said.
The sheriff’s office suspended Harris right away and Charlotte-Mecklenburg police were called in to investigate. When DNA evidence came back, Harris was charged with multiple sex offenses.
Sheriff Gary McFadden declined to go on camera but released the following statement:
“The Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office has a zero-tolerance policy for all forms of sexual abuse and or sexual harassment within MCSO’s detention facilities. It was MCSO that acted immediately and notified the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department (CMPD) in accordance with the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) standards once we were aware of the allegation against our employee. We cooperated fully during their investigation. Officer Kyle Harris was immediately placed on paid administrative leave and the internal investigation by the MCSO Office of Professional Compliance was halted so that it did not impede or compromise the criminal investigation which resulted in criminal charges against Harris. Sexual conduct between persons in custody and staff, volunteers, or contract personnel, regardless of consensual status, is prohibited and subject to the appropriate personnel action to include termination and criminal prosecution. We encourage residents to report all allegations of sexual abuse and or sexual harassment and take all reported claims seriously. In reviewing all grievances made by Resident Haleem Gilliland, we found no such grievances prior to the allegations made against Harris. The Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office is unable to comment any further at this time.”
Everage maintains the sheriff’s office action was too little, too late.
“She was supposed to be protected and the investigation put her in a more dangerous situation,” Everage said.
“It’s actually more traumatizing than I would ever imagine,” Heaven said. “I don’t even sleep the same at night and 9 out of 10 I have nightmares.”
Heaven and her attorney said they believe there is video evidence showing the incident in the shower and also showing how many times that deputy came by Heaven’s cell. They plan to file motions to get both of those and then we’ll see if they end up filing a lawsuit.
(WATCH BELOW: Classmates record, post video of student who is transgender in bathroom, student says)
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