A 21-year-old man has been charged with murder in the 2018 shooting death of transgender woman Celine Walker in Jacksonville.
Walker, 36, also known as Erika, was shot several times and killed at the Extended Stay America hotel in Jacksonville’s Southpoint neighborhood on Feb. 4, 2018. Police found several shell casings and DNA evidence at the crime scene.
The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office investigated the crime for more than a year before finally arresting Sean Bernard Phoenix and charging him with murder. He has also been charged with evidence tampering.
Police say Phoenix admitted to shooting Walker during an interrogation, and that he then sold the murder weapon to a stranger.
“They had a previous relationship,” Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office Chief of Investigations T.K. Waters told News4JAX. He declined to elaborate further on the nature of the relationship.
Walker was one of four transgender women who were shot, three fatally, in the span of six months, sparking fears among transgender advocates that trans women were being deliberately targeted.
In the months after Walker’s death, 38-year-old Antash’a English was found suffering from a gunshot wound to the abdomen in between two abandoned houses and 24-year-old Cathalina Christina James was found shot to death in a hotel room.
“A lot of those crimes that happen with transgender women have been made at the hands of men that they’ve been involved with,” transgender activist Paige Mahogany Parks told News4JAX.
The sheriff’s office later arrested the boyfriend of the fourth victim who survived, who allegedly shot his girlfriend after a dispute.