A Baltimore man has been arrested and charged with first-degree murder in the death of Zoe Spears, a 23-year-old whose death last month outside Washington, D.C., marked the 10th this year of a black transgender woman.
The Prince George’s County, Md., police say Gerardo Thomas, 33, admits to having been armed and in the area of Fairmount Heights, Md., where Spears was shot and killed the night of June 13, the Washington Post reported Thursday.
Spears’ death came just months after the killing in the same area of another black trans woman, a friend of Spears named Ashanti Carmon, whose slaying remains unsolved.
Police told the Post that they didn’t think transphobia was a factor in Spears’ death, although they added that they didn’t know what the motive was.
“He did not mention anything about her being a transgender female,” Police Maj. Brian Reilly, head of the criminal investigations division for the Prince George’s County Police Department, said of Thomas. “He gave us no reason.”
However, Spears’ loved ones and many in the transgender community fear that she and others in the trans community were and are being targeted. In fact, according to the Post, Spears had told friends that she had witnessed Carmon’s killing.
Friends of both Spears and Carmon said that they were relieved and grateful that police had made an arrest in at least one of the cases.
As WJLA reports, Ruby Corado, a transgender advocate who looked upon Spears as a daughter, said the arrest in Spears’ killing shows that her life mattered and gives hope that there will be a similar accounting in Carmon’s death.
“No one should have to die at 23 years old,” Corado told the station. “So knowing that this man is in jail, it gives me some sense of peace knowing that he cannot hurt someone else.”
Corado added: “Knowing this case was important to the Prince George’s County Police Department, and that Zoe can get justice, it means that people who live in Prince George’s County can feel confident that their lives matter.
“It does send a message that you can’t hurt members of the LGBTQ community and get away with it.”