At least five citizens came forward with information that enabled D.C. police to arrest a 55-year-old man charged last week in the murder of transgender woman Deoni Jones at a city bus stop on Feb. 2, according to a police arrest affidavit.
Police on Feb. 10 charged Gary Niles Montgomery of Northeast D.C. with second-degree murder while armed in connection with the fatal stabbing of Jones, 23, at a Metro bus stop at East Capitol and Sycamore streets, N.E.
A D.C. Superior Court judge ordered Montgomery held without bail at a court presentment hearing on Saturday, Feb. 11. He is scheduled for a preliminary hearing on Feb. 23, where prosecutors are expected outline their case against him.
“Unlike what we have seen in the past, in this case, at the time when this homicide took place, passersby unrelated to the situation intervened – two passersby – and attempted to assist a person that they believed was being assaulted,” said D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier at the news conference she called to announce the arrest in the case.
“They stopped, they did what they could to help, and they notified police and they waited for police to come to the scene,” Lanier said. “And then we had people in the community who came forward and provided us the information that we need. And I want to thank all those who have helped us bring this case to closure.”
Lanier said police had yet to determine the motive for the murder and they had not ruled out classifying the case as a hate crime.
The police arrest affidavit reveals that a video released to the news media by police the day after the murder, which showed a man walking across a street that police identified as a “person of interest” in the case, also captured the murder itself.
In a chilling narrative, the affidavit says the video shows the suspect, later identified as Montgomery, and Jones sitting on a bench at the bus stop. It says one witness who also sat briefly on the same bench with Jones and Montgomery, before walking away, noticed that Montgomery was starring at Jones.
“Additionally, witness #3 reported that the [then] unknown black male [suspect] had ‘big eyes’ as if he was under the influence,” the affidavit says.
The affidavit says the video shows that at one point Jones got up and walked away from the bus stop and out of range of the video. It says the video shows Montgomery getting up and following Jones before Jones and then Montgomery returned to the bus stop and sat down on opposite ends of the bench.
“Approximately eight minutes following their return, the suspect is observed standing up facing the decedent, who remained sitting,” the affidavit says. “The suspect is then observed striking the decedent one time in the head, causing the decedent to collapse to the ground. The suspect is observed bending over and picking up what is believed to be the decedent’s purse,” the affidavit says.
“Upon doing this, witness #2 is observed confronting the suspect,” it says. “The suspect is observed dropping the decedent’s purse and running from the bus stop. Witness #2 is observed pursuing and apprehending the suspect. However, witness #2 became distracted for a moment, at which time the suspect escaped,” says the affidavit.
The affidavit says witness #2 was one of two motorists that observed Montgomery strike Jones as their car was stopped at a red light at a location close to the bus stop. It says both witnesses ran out of the car to help Jones, with one chasing after the suspect later identified as Montgomery.
The affidavit says detectives with the Homicide Branch learned after interviewing both witnesses that the witness who apprehended Montgomery became distracted after the other witness yelled that Jones was gravely injured and needed immediate medical attention.
An autopsy showed that Jones suffered a fatal stab wound to the right side of her face that penetrated her skull, the affidavit says. It says that when emergency medical technicians arrived at the scene of the crime they found a knife lodged in her head.
The police affidavit says at least three citizens who live in the area where the murder took place called police to say they recognized a “person of interest” shown in part of a video taken at the scene of the stabbing and released by police to the media.
Police haven’t identified the source of the video, but some observers believe it may have been from a police surveillance camera because the view shown is from an elevated position looking down at the street.
“[M]embers of the Metropolitan Police Department were contacted by Witness #4 who reported that while watching local news coverage of the crime, it viewed the surveillance footage and recognized the ‘person of interest’ to be an individual it has seen on a daily or weekly basis for the past ten years,” the affidavit says.
“Specifically, Witness #4 reported that the ‘person of interest’ is an individual who panhandles two blocks west of the crime scene near the intersection of East Capitol Street and Benning Road, N.E.,” the affidavit says. “Witness #4 reported that it recognized Gary Montgomery in the video based on physical description, clothing, and prominent limp.”
The affidavit says Witness #4 played a key role in Montgomery’s arrest when the witness observed Montgomery near the intersection of East Capitol Street and Benning Road shortly after the witness contacted police to say he recognized the “person of interest” from the video.
“Witness #4 immediately contacted law enforcement who responded to the scene and stopped Gary Montgomery,” the affidavit says. It says the witness identified Montgomery as the person of interest at the time police stopped him.
According to police, investigators learned later that Montgomery had been living in the basement of a vacant residence 208 44th Street, N.E., “on a daily basis for the past six months.”
D.C. Superior Court records show that Montgomery has been arrested seven times between 2004 and 2008 on misdemeanor, fugitive, and traffic related charges.
Police spokesperson Gwendolyn Crump said investigators do not consider Montgomery a suspect in the August 2009 daytime stabbing murder of transgender woman NaNa Boo Mack on a street in the city’s Shaw neighborhood, which remains unsolved.
Transgender activists praised what they called a thorough police investigation that led to Montgomery’s arrest and Lanier’s decision to shed a spotlight on the case by holding a news conference to announce the arrest.
“I am very pleased at the chief making this announcement herself,” said Earline Budd, an official with the D.C. transgender services and advocacy group Transgender Health Empowerment.
Budd said she also wants to thank the witness who intervened to help Jones and attempted to apprehend the suspect at the crime scene as well as “all of those who called in tips that led to this arrest.”
But Budd and other transgender activists noted that most of more than a half dozen transgender murders that have occurred in the city over the past several years remain unsolved.
“I don’t believe that we are yet where we should and want to be,” Budd said in an email to the Washington Blade.