A 19-month-old investigation into the shooting death of the first of three transgender victims last year in Jacksonville ended with the arrest of a 21-year-old man, the Sheriff’s Office said.

Sean Bernard Phoenix of Acorn Park Court was arrested Aug. 29 on a warrant for murder. He also faces charges of tampering with evidence and shooting deadly missiles as he remains behind bar without bail, according to Duval County jail records. Police did not release details of his arrest or connection to the case until Wednesday.

He is charged in the homicide of 36-year-old Celine Walker, who was shot multiple times and killed Feb. 4 in a room at the Extended Stay America motel on Skinner Lake Drive, Chief T. K. Waters said.

The shooting occurred during an argument. Waters said the two “had a previous relationship,” but he did not release the details.

“Additional evidence placed the suspect at the scene during the shooting,” Water said. ”... The arrest in this case brings closure to the victim’s family, who has been very helpful and supportive in our investigative efforts.”

JASMYN Director of Policy Dan Merkan said he only learned of the arrest Wednesday afternoon and shared it with staff.

The nonprofit agency promotes equality and human rights for young members of the LGBT community. It has worked with the Sheriff’s Office in the past year on a new liaison team that works with LGBT crime victims following complaints to City Council after last year’s three transgender homicides.

“It was a pretty traumatic time and a lot of people were concerned about the level of violence directed at the transgender community,” Merkan said. “Great credit to JSO for getting this arrest. It sounds like from the report that the suspect confessed, so that is a great step forward. I know there is still work to be done on the others, but it is a real relief to know what happened in this case.”

Several shell casings were recovered at Walker’s motel room, as well as DNA evidence, Waters said. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement studied the DNA and identified it as coming from Phoenix, Waters said.

“That DNA was on the victim’s body inside the hotel room,” Waters said. ”... The suspect also admitted to selling the murder weapon to an unknown individual after the victim was killed in an effort to dispose of the evidence.”

Walker’s death was the first of three transgender homicides that occurred over a five-month period in the city.

The second occurred about 3:45 a.m. June 1, when 38-year-old local performer Antash’a Devine Sherrington English was shot between two abandoned homes in the 1500 block of Ella Street. She told officers the shooter was a man in a gray hoodie, then died at a hospital, police said.

The last transgender homicide of 2018 was June 24 outside the Quality Inn and Suites on Dix Ellis Trail. Identified as Cathalina Christina James, 24, of Bishopville, S.C., the Sheriff’s Office said witnesses told investigators the victim was “participating in illegal activity.”

According to the Human Rights Campaign, the three homicides made up 23 percent of the nation’s 13 transgender victims as of June 2018.

The three deaths as well as the June 12, 2018, shooting of a 23-year-old transgender woman in the 1000 block of West 29th Street also left the city’s transgender community worried.

Community members organized a protest in late June 2018 in front of the courthouse after speaking out to the City Council.

The protest prompted Sheriff Mike Williams and others to have a town meeting Aug. 2, 2018, to hear their concerns. He acknowledged faults in his department’s reporting. He said sensitivity training was being instituted in the police academy when it comes to dealing with those in the LGBT community, and he set up a liaison team to work with victims.

That team now has 20 members from all departments, Assistant Chief Adam Pendley saying recently that the past year’s work has gone well, another part of the community “we needed to reach out to.”

TAMPA, Fla. — The last time anyone heard from Pauline del Mundo, she was in the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport where she was supposed to catch a connecting flight.

The 59-year-old transgender woman from Tampa never got on that plane.

Her family says she was on her way from Tampa to Cozumel, Mexico, on Sept. 14 for a 10-day vacation when she called a sister sounding “incoherent” and “depressed.” She had suddenly changed her mind and needed a plane ticket back to Tampa.

Then she seemingly vanished.

“We were alarmed,” said sister Lilia Acebron, who was in Tampa on Monday to connect with local law enforcement. “We tried to reach her on her cellphone but her cellphone was dead.”

Acebron believes del Mundo was dealing with pain from a recent rotator cuff injury, which was interfering with her job as a certified nursing assistant.

“She’s a hard working woman, she always worked overtime,” Acebron said. “But she was still having some pain, some limitation of movement, so she considered herself disabled and I think that’s why she started getting depressed.”

Acebron said it was an unusual disposition for their otherwise “bubbly” sister, one of 12 children in their close-knit family.

Now they fear for her safety in Dallas as a transgender woman, citing reports of a string of attacks on transgender individuals in the area in recent months including the shooting of a transgender woman just last week that’s now being investigated as a hate crime.

“We were afraid it was our sister,” Acebron said. “There’s a lot of things going on in my mind, which I don’t want to think about.”

As of Monday, two of del Mundo’s sisters had flown to Dallas to connect with investigators there. They told 10News they’d met with a detective with the DFW International Airport police department.

A spokesperson for the airport confirmed they'd made contact with the family and told 10News investigators were combing through surveillance footage which, so far, had turned up nothing.

“I really love her so much, I miss her so much,” Acebron said. “We just want to see her alive.”

A friend of a transgender woman, whose body was found in the remains of a house fire in July, believes the victim was targeted.

The remains of Bubba Walker were found days after the fire happened by an insurance adjuster examining the scene, according to fire officials.  The Charlotte Fire Department said, at the time, that the home was under renovation and being turned into a business.  Firefighters additionally said, due to the condition of the home at the time they arrived to fight the blaze, they weren't able to do a thorough examination of the structure but added there were no signs anyone was in the home.

Investigators now believe Walker's death was by homicide.

"Knowing Bubba, she was cautious about everything she did," said Clarabelle Catlin, a Charlotte-based trans activist who was friends with Walker.  "She was smart, she was intelligent.  If she had seen the fire, she would've gotten out there, so I think someone targeted her and took advantage of the situation."

Catlin described Walker as a type of mother figure to trans people of color.

"She was someone you really looked up to.  She was important to me, and other people's lives," said Catlin.

Catlin believes Walker was targeted, primarily because of where her body was found.  The fire happened off Kenley Lane in southwest Charlotte.  Catlin said that area would not be normal for Walker, who was a known figure throughout NoDa and East Charlotte.

Catlin added that Walker's death by homicide is one of several that have happened across the country in 2019, primarily to trans women of color.  To date, there have been 19 incidents, with two in the Carolinas.

SAN FRANCISCO, September 18, 2019 — The Court of Appeal on Tuesday confirmed that it is illegal discrimination for a hospital to deny someone care simply because they’re transgender, allowing a lawsuit filed against Dignity Health to move forward.

Plaintiff Evan Minton was scheduled to receive a hysterectomy at Mercy San Juan Medical Center, a Sacramento-area Catholic hospital in the Dignity Health chain. Two days prior to the appointment, a nurse called to discuss the surgery and Minton mentioned that he is transgender. The next day, the hospital canceled the procedure.

The suit, filed in 2017 by the ACLU Foundation of Northern California, the ACLU Foundation of Southern California, and the law firm Covington & Burling LLP, argues that Dignity Health’s refusal to allow Minton to undergo a hysterectomy while allowing the procedure for cisgender women violates California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act.

“When his surgery was cancelled, he was subjected to discrimination,” the Court of Appeal ruled in its opinion. “Full and equal access requires avoiding discrimination, not merely remedying it after it has occurred.”

As Minton requested, the case will now return to San Francisco Superior Court to go through the normal process of discovery. Minton will be able to gather and present evidence proving that he was illegally denied health care because of his gender identity and documenting the harm he suffered as a result of the discrimination.

“The Unruh Act promises full and equal access to public accommodations, yet Dignity Health refuses to provide necessary care to transgender patients,” said Elizabeth Gill, a senior staff attorney with the ACLU of Northern California. “We will continue to fight for the right to care for everyone, even if their local hospital has a religious affiliation.”

Dignity Health is one of the largest hospital providers in California. It recently merged with another Catholic hospital chain to create the largest nonprofit healthcare system in the country.

As Amazon Prime Video prepares to send off “Transparent” with a musical finale movie on Sept. 27, the cast and creative team behind the show are hoping the impact of a character such as Maura Pfefferman (Jeffrey Tambor) will not be overshadowed by the controversy that the actor who portrayed Maura caused.

“I believe that Maura stood for that [LGBTQ fight for equality] whole heartedly. And that would not have happened unless she had been blessed by a truly gifted actor. And that among all things that have happened and behavior that has happened, that is worth remembering,” Alexandra Billings said at the Tribeca TV Festival closing night panel for the show Sunday.

Tambor was fired from the show in early 2018 after sexual harassment claims were made against him by actresses on the show. He had portrayed Maura for four seasons, earning two Emmy Awards and a Golden Globe for the performance of the head of the Pfefferman family who came out as transgender to her family in the pilot episode.

Jill Soloway created the show after their own parent came out as transgender, and Judith Light sang Soloway’s praises on the panel for putting forth a show that set out to stand for equal rights.

“What was happening in the trans community was beginning to really come out of the shadows,” Light said of the early days of the show. “This was one more piece. It was like an arrow that was shot into the air, and we rode in on that — on that energy of what was and still is transformative.”

It is within that same spirit that the team behind “Transparent” put together the final piece of its story, as well.

“What I appreciate about what Jill is constantly talking about is that this is not an ending. This is a transition. And we don’t know what’s going to happen from here, but in every finishing is a beginning,” Light said.

For Soloway, one of the most interesting things about telling the Pfefferman family members’ individual stories has been Ari’s (Gaby Hoffman) nonbinary journey.

“When we first wrote the script…there were so many ‘they’ jokes and the script was filled with like, ‘Two nonbinary people walk into a bar. They order a martini. They also order Martini’ — like we were trying to make as much nonbinary jokes as possible,” Soloway said. “And by the time we got to filming, we were so used to just using the ‘they’ pronouns that we barely spoke about their gender. … And it kind of ended up not being the big joke that we kind of thought it was going to be.”

Soloway also noted that “time moves so quickly. Our culture is moving so quickly that it felt like it was just too late to make any jokes.”

But overall, Soloway shared they were just “so honored that I get to process my life in this form and that we all get to process in this form.”

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