February 14, 2012 at 4:09 pm EST | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Police say help from citizens led to arrest in trans murder

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.

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

  • One case does not effective policy/ procedural change make. And, as noted, there are a number of transgender homicide cases yet to be closed. But one can hardly overstate the sheer effectiveness and likely deterrence power when prompt communications and cooperation between police and the communities they serve is implemented.

    That does not happen by accident. The handling of this case is a good, cooperative model for both MPD and community residents to keep in mind.

    Thanks to MPD’s Homicide Branch, MPD’s Communications office and SLD/GLLU for getting information about this horrific, bold crime promptly and widely disseminated throughout the city.

  • Na Na Boo Mack’s stabbing should have been solved by now. I’ve heard from close friends of Na Na Boo that both victims knew their attacker. In fact, the words that sparked the actual stabbings were statements by Na Na Boo about the attackers preference for ‘taking it up the —“. I’ve passed this information along to the press and the M.P.D. and never got a response. It’s no wonder Lanier never gets cases closed. If an observer gives her key information and no one responds, of course the case will remain unsolved!

  • Let’s give credit where credit is due. At this point, due credit has to be given to Chief Lanier and her renewed efforts, since last year, focusing on the crime and homicides perpetrated against transgender residents.

    Too many comments I’ve seen of late amount to non-specific, exaggerated or personal attacks on Chief Lanier and others at MPD. Murder will never be routine. But these kind of comments are a distraction to achieving, as a matter of good habit, the kind of police/ community cooperation we saw play out in this case.

    Many of us criticize Chief Lanier to one degree or another– hopefully over MPD *policy* issues. My criticism of Chief Lanier’s policy performance is at the margins. But the truth is, this city is fortunate to have a chief who appreciates our political process and the value of robust police issue discussions among MPD and LGBT residents.

    Police chiefs have to wear lots of hats. Like a good field commander, this chief proved long ago she is highly adaptable to our city’s ever-changing crime ‘battlefield’.

    Moreover, there is probably, now, better departmental consciousness and understanding of the underlying transphobia and/or homophobia most often linked– provably or not– with crimes against LGBT residents. And it is clear an extra intensity of violence seems to be reserved for DC’s transgender residents and lesbians. Hopefully, even rookie MPD responders now ‘get’ that, whether a GLLU officer is with them or not.

    Respect for and the stature of specialized law enforcement units matter to the credibility and effectiveness of their unique policing missions– both to the public and to a department’s rank and file officers. MPD’s revitalized Special Liaison Division and GLLU units continue to increase their visibility, public contacts and educational efforts– both to LGBTs and wider audiences all across the city.

    While many of us will continue to push for restoring a robust central GLLU office at Dupont– Asst. Chief Groomes, SLD’s Captain Delgado and GLLU’s Sgt. Mejia deserve credit for GLLU’s renewed visibility and GLLU’s ongoing policing efforts.

    Finally, our city’s diligent LGBT press corps and our city’s transgender leaders and activists all deserve LGBT residents’ ongoing gratitude for keeping everyone informed and focused on a problem that has produced so much loss, grief and fear.

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