Kokomo City: Teen arrested over fatal shooting of Black trans woman Koko Da Doll

Koko Da Doll on the Sundance film festival red carpet

Police have arrested a 17-year-old man in connection with the tragic shooting of Black trans star Koko Da Doll, who was killed on Tuesday (18 April) in the southwest area of Atlanta.

Jermarcus Jernigan is in police custody at Fulton County Jail for the murder of the 35-year-old Koko Da Doll, also known as Rasheeda Williams, who appeared in award-winning documentary Kokomo City.

Jernigan turned himself in after the Atlanta Police Department (APD) released surveillance footage of a man wearing a white hoodie with a distinctive black emblem at the scene of the crime.

The footage shows a man arguing with Williams before shooting her and running away. The police asked for the public’s help to identify the man.

Jernigan identified himself as the man in the surveillance footage, but initially claimed he didn’t shoot Williams, according to The Atlanta Journal Constitution.

Despite Jernigan’s denial of being involved in the homicide, the APD were able to “establish probable cause and secure arrest warrants for murder, aggravated assault and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony,” the department said in a statement on Thursday (26 April).

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Williams’ body was found on 18 April with a gunshot wound at a shopping centre in Atlanta.

At the time, the APD said: “Upon arrival, officers located a female victim with an apparent gunshot wound. She was not alert, conscious or breathing and pronounced deceased on scene by the Atlanta Fire Rescue Department.”

Koko Da Doll (left), Dominique Silver (centre), and Daniella Carter (right) attend the screening of Kokomo City during the 2023 SXSW Conference. (Renee Dominguez/Getty Images for SXSW)

Kokomo City was featured at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival and won two awards, including the Audience Award in the festival’s NEXT section.

The film follows four transgender sex workers, including Williams, alongside Liyah Mitchell, Daniella Carter and Dominique Silver, who share their stories. They explore issues such as the threat of violence they face each day. 

In addition to her appearance in the film, Williams was also gearing up to release a rap album and start a haircare line.

The director of Kokomo City, D. Smith, paid tribute to the star of the film on Instagram and wrote that she will remember how “beautiful and full of life” Williams was.

“I created Kokomo City because I wanted to show the fun, humanised, natural side of Black trans women. I wanted to create images that didn’t show the trauma or the statistics of murder of transgender lives.

“I wanted to create something fresh and inspiring. I did that. We did that!

“But here we are again,” Smith continued. “It’s extremely difficult to process Koko’s passing, but as a team we are more encouraged now than ever to inspire the world with her story. To show how beautiful and full of life she was.

“She will inspire generations to come and will never be forgotten.”

Black trans women ‘disproportionally affected’ by fatal violence

The killing of Black trans women continues to be an epidemic in the United States.

This is the third murder investigation of a trans woman in Atlanta that the APD are aware of and working on in 2023.

In 2022, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) reported that 38 trans women were “fatally shot or killed by other violent means” in the US. The HRC found that Black trans women are disproportionately affected when it comes to fatal violence.

Williams is the 13th trans person killed in the US in 2023 alone, according to Trans Lives Matter.