Three men face hate-crimes charges in connection with the deadly shooting last summer of a 22-year-old transgender woman and for targeting two other transgender women, according to court papers filed this week.
A D.C. grand jury returned an indictment on Wednesday in the July 4 shooting of Deeniquia Dodds that occurred during an alleged robbery. Dodds was found unconscious and bleeding, and died in the hospital nine days later.
Three defendants — Jalonte Little, Monte T. Johnson and Cyheme Hall — are charged in a robbery conspiracy and with first-degree felony murder that prosecutors now say in the indictment was motivated by prejudice because of the gender identity of the victims.
The men are accused of committing four other robberies or attempted robberies on the same day, including the robbery of another transgender woman. According to the indictment, the men are also charged with assaulting a third transgender woman.
The addition of the hate-crimes charges means that if the men are convicted, a judge could increase their penalties at sentencing. On the charge of first-degree murder while armed, for example, the hate-crimes enhancement increases the maximum sentence from 60 years to 90 years in prison.
Earline Budd, an advocate for the local transgender community, praised the decision by the U.S. attorney’s office to officially characterize the shooting as a hate crime.
“It sends a message that it’s not okay to go around and shoot, harm and kill transgender people,” said Budd, who helped organize a vigil in Dodds’s honor. “It sends a message that we are human like anyone else.”
Hall’s attorney, Jonathan Zucker, called it “a leap” to include the hate-crimes element in the indictment. He said nothing in the initial information he reviewed, for example, suggests specific comments were made about the gender identity of the victims. Johnson’s attorney declined to comment. Little’s attorney was not immediately available.
According to the Human Rights Campaign, more transgender people were killed in 2015 than in any other year on record. In the District, six have been killed since 2002.
Dodds, whom friends called Dee Dee, was a sex worker, relatives have said. Police found her at about 3 a.m. in the 200 block of Division Street NE with a gunshot wound to the neck.
The three men were riding in a white Pontiac when they spotted Dodds, robbed and shot her, according to the 10-page indictment. The alleged robberies netted small items, including cellphones, earphones and Metro cards.
Hall, 21, of District Heights, Md.; Johnson, 21, of Fort Washington, Md.; and Little, 26, of the District are scheduled to face formal charges in Superior Court on Friday.
A fourth person arrested in the shooting — Shareem Hall of District Heights, Md. — is not listed in the indictment filed this week. Hall has a hearing scheduled for May.