Man charged with murder of trans woman Zoe Spears

Zoe Spears smiling

A Baltimore man has been charged with the murder of Zoe Spears, a black transgender woman who was shot dead just outside of Washington, D.C on June 13.

Gerardo Thomas was arrested and charged with first degree murder on Thursday (July 18), just over a month after Spears was killed in Fairmount Heights, Maryland.

He told police that he was in the area and armed on the night of her death, though police do not believe that he targeted Spears on account of her gender identity.

“Thomas did not mention anything about her being transgender,” said Brian Reilly, head of the criminal investigations division for Prince George’s County Police, reported the Washington Post.

“He gave us no reason [for his alleged crime].”

Zoe Spears was scared of being murdered

Spears’ friends have told how the 23-year-old was terrified of being murdered after her friend and neighbour Ashanti Carmon, also a black trans woman, was shot dead in March.

“I don’t want to die,” Earline Budd, a trans advocate who knew both women, recalled Spears as saying.

Budd told the Washington Post that Spears was a “vibrant young person” who “was just trying to make it and just trying to survive on the street, and that is very difficult.”

I don’t want to die.

Ultimately Spears was found dead just blocks away from where Carmon had been slain.

Initially police had said that while there was “no direct link” between the two murders, it was an “unusual” situation that they would be “monitoring very closely.”

After Thomas’ arrest, officials confirmed that they are not treating the cases as linked.

At least 11 trans woman murdered in 2019

According to the Human Rights Campaign, at least 11 black transgender women have been shot or violently killed in the first seven months of 2019.

As well as Carmon and Spears, the LGBT+ community has also mourned the deaths of Dana Martin, Jazzaline Ware, Claire Legato, Muhlaysia Booker, Michelle ‘Tamika’ Washington, Paris Cameron, Chynal Lindsey, Chanel Scurlock and Brooklyn Lindsey.

HRC says that it is also concerned about the deaths of Johana ‘Joa’ Medina, a refugee from El Salvador who died hours after she was released from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody, and Layleen Polanco, an Afro-Latinx trans woman who died in a New York jail.