Metro Weekly

17-Year-Old Faces Murder Charges for Shooting Trans Friend

Las Vegas police report claims suspect asked parents not to call police after telling them he accidentally shot 18-year-old Jazlynn Johnson.

Photo: Prathaan via 123rf

A 17-year-old accused of murdering a transgender friend told police he accidentally shot the victim. Additionally, police say, he allegedly asked his parents not to call 911 after informing them of the crime.

Cesar Sandoval, of Las Vegas, faces one count of open murder, one count of open murder with the use of a deadly weapon, and one count of concealing evidence for his alleged role in the shooting death of 18-year-old Jazlynn Johnson, a transgender woman.

On May 6, around 4 a.m. Las Vegas police responded to a call from a man, later identified as Sandoval’s father, that his son had shot a friend inside a vehicle. The man reportedly told dispatchers his son had come home and told his parents that he had shot his friend, but would not tell them any details about the shooting, according to a police report.

Officers arrived on the scene and detained the younger Sandoval, asking him where the shooting occurred.

He reportedly told officers it took place inside a gray Honda in the area of East St. Louis Avenue and 15th Street in Las Vegas.

They responded to the crime scene, located less than a mile from the Sandoval home, and found a female in the driver’s seat, slumped against the door, with an apparent gunshot wound to the head. 

Medical personnel responded and pronounced the woman dead at the scene. The Clark County Coroner’s Officer later identified the victim as Johnson. 

Evidence at the scene indicated that the shooting happened inside the vehicle, and that the shooter was likely seated in the passenger seat.

When asked by police what happened, Sandoval told investigators there was “a fucked up accident and I hurt my friend.” When police asked follow-up questions, Sandoval asked for a lawyer but continued to maintain that the shooting was an accident. He reportedly told police he did not know where the gun used in the shooting was.

According to CBS affiliate KLAS, Sandoval’s parents told police he had left home the night before and was picked up by a gray Honda, which they had seen pick him up before.

Sandoval allegedly came home at 3 a.m. “hysterical and in a panic,” according to the police report.

Sandoval told his parents that “it was an accident,” and when questioned whether he had been in a car accident, Sandoval admitted to shooting his friend. He asked his parents not to call the police, but they told him they had to.

Sandoval is currently being held in custody at the Clark County Juvenile Hall. He is next scheduled to appear in court for a preliminary hearing on June 18.

LGBTQ rights groups have called on authorities to investigate Johnson’s death further and to potentially consider pursuing hate crime charges, which could lead to additional penalties for Sandoval if he is convicted of the underlying crime.

Jazlynn’s murder is the latest in a pattern of senseless deaths among transgender, nonbinary, and gender nonconforming youth across America who face rampant harassment and violence simply because of who they are,” Sarah Kate Ellis, the president and CEO of GLAAD, said in a statement. 

“While a 17-year-old boy has been arrested and charged with murder, we urge continual investigation to determine if this can be charged as a hate crime,” André Wade, the State Director of Silver State Equality, Nevada’s statewide LGBTQ rights organization, said of the murder. “Crimes against transgender and gender non-conforming people — especially transgender youth of color — continue to escalate nationwide.”

Support Metro Weekly’s Journalism

These are challenging times for news organizations. And yet it’s crucial we stay active and provide vital resources and information to both our local readers and the world. So won’t you please take a moment and consider supporting Metro Weekly with a membership? For as little as $5 a month, you can help ensure Metro Weekly magazine and remain free, viable resources as we provide the best, most diverse, culturally-resonant LGBTQ coverage in both the D.C. region and around the world. Memberships come with exclusive perks and discounts, your own personal digital delivery of each week’s magazine (and an archive), access to our Member's Lounge when it launches this fall, and exclusive members-only items like Metro Weekly Membership Mugs and Tote Bags! Check out all our membership levels here and please join us today!