The Man Suspected of Killing Acey Morrison, a Native Two-Spirit Person, Has Been Arrested

Note: This article contains descriptions of anti-transgender violence.

Nearly a year and a half after he allegedly shot and killed Acey Morrison, a Two-Spirit member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, South Dakota resident Gregory Landers has been arrested and indicted for manslaughter, the state’s attorney announced this week.

A grand jury indicted Landers, 53, on Wednesday on charges of first-degree manslaughter, unauthorized ingestion of a controlled drug or substance, and possession of a firearm by a person with a prior drug conviction, according to the Pennington County State’s Attorney’s Office. Landers was arrested in Indiana early Wednesday morning, the state’s attorney’s office said, with cash bail set at $10,000, according to the Rapid City Journal. It’s unclear when his trial will officially begin.

On August 21, 2022, Landers allegedly shot and killed Morrison, 30, whom he met via the hookup app Grindr, the South Dakota Searchlight reported. When questioned by police, Landers claimed he killed Morrison in self-defense while fighting over a shotgun, and officials brought no charges against him for nearly 18 months afterward. But Morrison’s family told BuzzFeed News last year that postmortem photos of her body, which they saw just 10 days after her death, showed marks of having been “bruised and beaten” — seeming to contradict Landers’ claim.

Morrison’s mother, Edelyn Catches, says police told her that because of South Dakota’s strong self-defense laws, the state might decide to only pursue drug charges rather than investigate her daughter’s death. (Katy Urban, a spokesperson for the state’s attorney’s office, told the Rapid City Journal that the delay in charging Landers was also partially due to a “transitional” period in the office: state’s attorney Lara Roetzel, who will represent the prosecution, left her position in January 2023, shortly after receiving the case from local investigators — only to return several months later after her successor abruptly departed for Thailand.)

“They really made me feel like it wasn’t going to go anywhere,” Catches told the Searchlight this week, adding she was “so relieved” to hear Landers would face a manslaughter charge. “I was really happy. I didn’t want to get my hopes up because it’s been so long,” she said.

An obituary for Morrison in the Native Sun News described “our two-spirit relative” as a “kindhearted, down to earth, joyous, respectful, and loving soul […] Acey always put a smile on others and had those around her laughing and happy.”

“I just miss her laughter,” Catches told BuzzFeed News in 2023. “If I felt down, she would make a joke about whatever the situation is and get me to laugh. When she laughs, it’s just that laughter that lifts your spirit up.”

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