About 200 people gathered Tuesday evening at the intersection of East Capitol Street and Sycamore Road NE in the city’s Benning Heights neighborhood for a candlelight vigil to remember 23-year-old Deoni Jones, the transgender woman who was stabbed in the head while waiting at a bus stop on the evening of Feb. 2.
Jones, whose birth name was JaParker and was also known as Logan, died at around 2:35 a.m. on the morning of Feb. 3 after being transported to Prince George’s Hospital Center in Cheverly, Md.
According to information from police and transgender advocates who work closely with the Metropolitan Police Department, Jones was stabbed following an altercation at the bus stop with her attacker. A third person was at the bus stop and witnessed the attack, initially attempting to chase the attacker but ceasing pursuit after realizing Jones was in need of medical attention.
At the vigil, Jones’s family and friends were joined by members the LGBT community, politicians, clergy and representatives from various government or nonprofit agencies. Around the bus stop and a nearby tree, mourners placed stuffed animals, pictures and other items at a makeshift shrine to Jones. One man held up a large poster reading ”The Lord is My Shepherd.”
As dusk fell, the mourners passed around a megaphone and shared stories about Jones, who they remembered as a gentle, loving person. Jones’s father, referring to her as JaParker, said his ”son didn’t have a violent bone in his body.” Several other speakers praised Jones’s bravery for embracing her identity as a transgender woman.
Several attendees from the LGBT community sadly noted that the spot where Jones was killed is a little more than a mile from where 23-year-old transgender woman Lashai Mclean was gunned down in July 2011; five blocks from the intersection where transgender woman Tyra Hunter died after being refused medical treatment in 1995 by emergency personnel after a car accident; and where two other transgender women, Stephanie Thomas and Ukea Davis, were shot to death in 2002.
”It’s tragedy that we stand here again on another day to commemorate and recognize the loss of another soul within our community,” said Jeffrey Richardson, director of the Mayor’s Office of GLBT Affairs. ”I cannot believe that we’re standing out here because somebody did not recognize the humanity in this beautiful soul.”
The vigil served not only as a cathartic event for people to purge their grief and frustration, but as a call to action.
”In the last three months, we’ve had three vigils in this community,” said Ronald Moten, co-founder of Peaceaholics, a nonprofit working with at-risk youth focused on reducing violence, and a Republican City Council candidate for Ward 7. ”This is too much. … We have to come together and demand better of ourselves, our leaders, and support our young people.”
Moten also emphasized the need for anybody with information to come forward so that Jones’s killer would be caught and brought to justice.
”Negative things happen when positive people do nothing,” Moten said. ”Somebody saw what happened. 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. 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.”
At one point, Moten paused while a young protégée of his released several brightly colored balloons into the night sky, one for each transgender woman who has been killed in the past 10 years, as attendees called out the names of the deceased women.
A church vigil and service will be held for Jones on Saturday, Feb. 11, at 12:30 p.m., at Holy Christian Missionary Baptist Church, 5110 Nannie Helen Burroughs Ave. NE. The family has extended an invitation to the public.
Police are currently searching for the suspect in Jones’s stabbing. He is described as a black male with medium complexion, 30 to 40 years old, with a beard. He was last seen wearing blue jeans and a gray hooded sweatshirt, with a black jacket. Members of the MPD’s Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit (GLLU) distributed fliers with a picture of Jones and a description of the suspect to the assembled crowd.
Police have also placed a video clip of the suspect crossing the street, caught by a security camera, on Youtube and are asking anyone with information to call 202-727-9099 or submit anonymous tips via text to 50411. MPD currently offers a reward of up to $25,000 dollars to anyone providing information leading to the arrest and conviction of a person wanted for any homicide in the District.