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Vigil for slain transgender woman draws over 200

Father makes appeal for witnesses to help police ‘bring killer to justice’

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Deoni Jones, gay news, gay politics dc

Over 200 people attended a candlelight vigil held for murdered trans woman Deoni Jones. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

More than 200 people turned out for a candlelight vigil Tuesday night at the site of a Northeast Washington bus stop where transgender woman Deoni Jones, 23, was fatally stabbed on Feb. 2 while waiting for a bus.

Surrounded by family members and friends, Jones’ stepfather, Alvin Bethea, made an emotional appeal for witnesses to come forward to identify a male suspect that police believe stabbed Jones in the face about 8:15 p.m. at the bus stop at East Capitol Street and Sycamore Road, N.E.

“We suspect that the person who did this lives in this community or hangs out in this community,” Bethea said. “Help the Metropolitan Police Department out… If anybody knows anything, please contact them.”

Bethea and other family members and friends who spoke at the vigil through a bullhorn provided by a member of the police department’s Gay & Lesbian Liaison Unit described Jones as warm and considerate, saying she lifted their spirits and made them laugh.

Police said this week that a video they released last Friday showing the suspect crossing a street from a distance prompted several people to contact investigators with information that is helping the department’s Homicide Branch in its investigation of the murder.

The video, which has been posted on YouTube, doesn’t clearly show the suspect’s face. But police said they were hopeful that someone who knows the person in question would recognize him in the video and reveal his identity to police homicide investigators.

In an interview with the Blade on the day police released the video, Lt. Robert Adler of the Homicide Branch described the suspect as a black male, 30 to 40 years old, about five-feet-nine to six-feet tall, with a medium build and medium complexion and sporting a beard.

“At the time of the incident the person was wearing a black jacket with a grey hooded sweatshirt underneath it and a pair of what we believe is jeans,” Adler said.

He said investigators obtained the description of the suspect “from a variety of different sources.”

Deoni Jones, gay news, gay politics dc

A makeshift memorial for Deoni Jones has been set up by loved ones at the bus stop where her murder took place. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Asked whether evidence exists to indicate the killing was a hate crime, Adler said, “At this time we are still investigating if it is or is not a hate crime. And as the investigation proceeds we should probably get a better idea of whether that was a factor in the assault.”

Police issued a statement on Feb. 3 saying a citizen flagged down a Metro transit police officer about 8:15 p.m. on Feb. 2 to report an assault at a bus stop on the 4900 block of East Capitol Street, N.E.

“Upon arrival, the officer located a transgender female who was unconscious and unresponsive suffering from a stab wound,” the statement said. “Units from the Sixth District and D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services personnel responded to the scene. The victim was transported to a local hospital and admitted in critical condition,” the statement said.

“On Friday, Feb. 3, 2012, at 2:35 a.m., the victim was pronounced dead,” the statement said.

Adler said Jones had no identification in her possession when police found her unconscious at the bus stop. He said investigators later identified her through finger prints.

The D.C. Trans Coalition released a statement on Feb. 3 saying it had learned through its own sources that a third person was at the bus stop when the stabbing took place and chased after the attacker. The statement said the attacker escaped when the witness realized that Jones was in need of immediate medical attention and abandoned his pursuit of the attacker.

Among those speaking at the vigil on Tuesday were Jeffrey Richardson, director of Mayor Vincent Gray’s Office of GLBT Affairs; Earline Budd and Brian Watson, officials with the D.C. transgender advocacy and services organization Transgender Health Empowerment; Cyndee Clay, executive director of the local group HIPS, which provides social services to transgender people; Officer Justin Markiewicz of the GLLU; and Ron Moten, co-founder of the D.C. youth anti-violence group Peaceoholics.

Jones’ mother, Jaquander Jones, and sister Judean Jones told the gathering they were devastated over the murder and were struggling over why someone would take the life of their loved one.

Moten urged possible witnesses to Jones’ murder to disregard what he called a reluctance by many city youth to turn in violent criminals out of fear of being labeled a “snitcher.”

“Somebody saw what happened,” he said. “And let me tell you something. There’s a difference between snitching and citizenship. Snitching is when you commit a crime with somebody and then you tell on them so you can get off,” he said.

“Citizenship is when you protect and serve your community and you fight for people like Deoni who lived a good life, who helped people, who made people smile every day,” he told the gathering.

One male friend of Jones,’ who didn’t identify himself at the vigil, described her as one of his closest friends and said her death has been devastating for him.

“This is a person who I hung out with like every day,” he said. “I watched this girl graduate. I helped her with her homework. I watched her grow from JaParker to Deoni, and that was a big step for her,” he said.

“If you’re going to do that you have to be a brave person,” the friend said. “She said she was ready. And that’s what she did, she just transformed. She was so beautiful.”

Some at the vigil, such as Bethea, referred to Deoni by her birth name of JaParker or by her nickname Logan. All who spoke said they loved and respected her for who she was.

In his emotional appeal for witnesses to come forward, Bethea described how he interacted with Jones at their home minutes before her death.

“I was sitting in the house just surfing the Internet on the laptop when JaParker asked to check the bus schedule to see what time the bus was going to arrive at this stop here,” he said. “I turned the laptop so he could check it. He checked it and walked out the door to hang out with one of the friends that he grew up with,” Bethea said.

“Ever since JaParker came into my life about 18 years ago he brought nothing but joy,” he said. “That’s all he ever did.”

In speculating on why the suspect attacked Jones, Bethea said he was certain that Jones would not have started a confrontation.

“I don’t know exactly whether they exchanged words or what but JaParker didn’t have a violent bone in his body,” he said. “And he was just confronted by the devil. He was simply sitting at this bus stop. That’s all.”

Police are offering a reward of up to $25,000 to anyone providing information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons wanted for any homicide committee in D.C., police said in a statement.

Anyone with information is asked to call police at 202-272-9099. Anonymous information can be submitted to the department’s “TEXT TIP LINE” by text messaging 50411, the police statement says.

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Delaware

Delaware’s Sussex Pride launches free statewide HIV, STI testing

Special program honors National HIV Testing Day on June 27

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Each year on June 27, people across the United States are encouraged to get tested for HIV. This year for Delawareans, it’s easier than ever.

Sussex Pride has partnered with STDCheck to offer free HIV and syphilis testing everywhere in Delaware. There are more than 20 locations across the state, making it simple to find a testing center.  

David Mariner, executive director of Sussex Pride, told the Blade, “We are thrilled with this new partnership with STDcheck. The ultimate goal is to empower individuals with knowledge about their HIV status, provide necessary support, and facilitate early intervention to improve health outcomes in our state.”

Finding a testing center, getting tested, and getting results is simple. Start by finding a lab near you using this link (https://www.stdcheck.com/std-test-center.php). Then call STDcheck at 800-456-2323 and request a free Sussex Pride HIV and/or syphilis test. Make sure to mention Sussex Pride in the call to get the test for free. Then schedule a time and get tested. 

“If you are HIV positive, the sooner you know, the better,” Mariner added. “Early and sustained treatment can help you live a long and healthy life. It can also help protect others.”

This special program is in honor of National HIV Testing Day, created in 1995 to highlight the lifesaving impact of HIV testing. HIV has historically had a disproportionate effect on the LGBTQ community. According to the CDC, 70% of all new cases of HIV in 2021 were among gay and bisexual men and other men who have sex with men.

The CDC’s theme for this year’s HIV testing day is “Level up your self-love: check your status.” The theme emphasizes, “valuing yourself, showing yourself compassion and respect, and honoring your health needs with self-love,” and the best way to do that is to test.

For more information on Sussex Pride’s testing program visit sussexpride.org/posts/testing/ and for more information on HIV visit CDC.gov/hiv.

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District of Columbia

D.C. police chief, officers marched in Pride parade in uniform

Capital Pride cautious about whether MPD violated ‘no uniform’ policy

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D.C. Police Chief Pamela Smith marches in the Capital Pride Parade on Saturday, June 8. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

D.C. Police Chief Pamela Smith led a contingent of D.C. police officers, including members of the department’s LGBT Liaison Unit, in the June 8 Capital Pride Parade with the chief and all the officers in uniform in what appeared to be a violation of a Capital Pride policy of not allowing law enforcement officers to participate in the parade in uniform.

The Capital Pride Alliance, the group that organizes most D.C. Pride events, including the parade, posted a statement on its website in June of 2020 announcing that a policy it adopted in 2018 that does not allow uniformed police officers to march in the parade remained in effect. The group told the Washington Blade this week in a statement that the no uniform policy remained in place for this year’s Pride parade.

In her own statement released on the day of the parade Chief Smith appeared to take exception to the no uniform policy without saying so directly.

“I am proud to march in today’s Capital Pride Parade in full uniform to support our LGBTQ+ colleagues and to further our commitment to creating inclusive and supportive environments,” the chief said. “MPD will continue to support, and ensure security, at Pride events and different community focused events year-round,” she said.

The chief’s statement, which was sent to the news media in a press release, added, “Having been selected as the department’s first Chief Equity Officer, and now as the Chief of Police, I’m committed to celebrating diverse identities. I will always stand up for diversity, equity and inclusion for our members and our community.”

In response to an inquiry from the Blade asking for confirmation of whether the “no uniform” policy was still in effect for the 2024 Pride parade, Capital Pride Alliance responded with a statement. 

“The Capital Pride Alliance policy concerning MPD remains in place,” the statement says. “If the group officially registers for the march, they must participate out of official uniform,” it says. 

“This year, the police did not register and as such were not an official parade contingent,” the statement continues. “The police chief walked the route with on-duty police officers, and being on-duty, officers are required to be in uniform.”

The statement adds, “We continue to have conversations with MPD, including the Chief of Police, about how we build a collaborative relationship with our community.”

D.C. police didn’t immediately respond to a Blade request for comment by Chief Smith or a spokesperson on the claim by Capital Pride officials that the police were not in an official contingent in this year’s parade.

Capital Pride officials did not respond to the Blade’s additional request this week for an explanation of why the no uniform policy was adopted and whether the policy is still needed.

In earlier statements posted on its website in past years, Capital Pride officials cited the Black Lives Matter movement and the police killing of Black Minneapolis resident George Floyd that triggered anti-police protests across the country as an issue that made some in the LGBTQ community and others participating in the Pride parade uncomfortable in the presence of uniformed police officers.

“Pride this year comes on the heels of a global pandemic and a nation confronting the murder of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers,” the group said in a June 3, 2020, statement. The Floyd case and the 2020 police shooting deaths of a Black woman in Louisville, Ky., and a Black transgender man in Tallahassee, Fla. “have created a nationwide uprising crying out for racial justice and the protection of Black life,” the statement said.

“As members of the Black and Brown communities have stood with the LGBTQ+ community, the Capital Pride Alliance stands in complete solidarity to unite against these disparities that impact communities of color,” the 2020 statement said. “We pledge that we will work together to find solutions and make positive changes that are so desperately needed to end inequity, injustice, and violence against people of color.”

Activists have acknowledged that the LGBTQ community nationwide has been divided over decisions to ban uniformed police participation in Pride parades in cities across the country, including New York and San Francisco.

A June 2019 nationwide poll of 801 LGBTQ people in the U.S. conducted by the polling firm Whitman Insight Strategies and BuzzFeed News found that 79 percent of LGBTQ adults said, “police should be welcome to join pride events,” with just 8 percent expressing opposition to police presence, according to BuzzFeed.

“People of color, who made up 21 percent of all survey respondents, support cops in pride events by 77 percent to 8 percent (15 percent say it makes no difference either way),” BuzzFeed reported in a June 24, 2019, article.

Earl Fowlkes, the founder and former CEO of the D.C.-based Center For Black Equity, which organizes D.C.’s annual Black Pride events, told the Blade that Black Pride has not adopted a policy of restricting uniformed police officers from participating in any of its events.

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Comings & Goings

McCarty named director of partnerships at Universe

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Steven McCarty

The Comings & Goings column is about sharing the professional successes of our community. We want to recognize those landing new jobs, new clients for their business, joining boards of organizations and other achievements. Please share your successes with us at: [email protected].

Congratulations to Steven McCarty on his new position with Universe, as Director of Partnerships. Universe supports movement organizations, labor unions, and Democratic campaigns, with the software they need to win. On accepting the new position he said, “I’m most excited to take my years of campaign and technology experience to down-ballot Democrats across the country as we fight to preserve our Democracy this election cycle.” 

Prior to this, McCarty was Business Development + Partnerships Lead, at STAC labs (State Technology Acceleration Collaborative), where he spearheaded strategic business development initiatives, expanding STAC labs’ partner network by 400% with the launch of the Progressive Tech Index and doubling DemLaunch user base from four to 11 states within a year. Prior to that he was president at The Kiwanis Club of Washington, D.C.; Senior Customer Success Manager at Crowdskout; Vice President at Circle K International, Indianapolis, Ind.; and a summer fellow at Michigan State AFL-CIO, Lansing, Mich. 

He has done a lot of volunteer work, including being an elected Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner for ANC 2G04, representing Blagden Alley, Naylor Court, and Shepherd Court. He received a Youth Champion Award for outstanding support to LGBTQ Youth, from SMYAL; and was named a Kiwanis Member of the Year, Kiwanis Club of Washington, D.C.

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