PHILADELPHIA — Philadelphia Police said Monday they have arrested one man for the murder of transgender woman Kiesha Jenkins, and the investigation’s lead officer tells The Daily Beast that three more arrests are “imminent.”
Last Tuesday, Jenkins was shot to death in north Philadelphia after being assaulted by a group of four men. Police say Jenkins, 22, was a “high-earner” prostitute who sought clients in the area she was killed. Jenkins is the second transgender woman murdered in the city this year and by some counts the 20th murdered nationwide. According to the Philadelphia Police Department, there have been 212 homicides in the city this year as of October 11.
Police arrested Pedro Redding on Sunday morning, based on a tip that he was among a group regularly committing robberies in the neighborhood where Jenkins was killed. According to Homicide Unit Commanding Officer Captain James Clark, Redding confessed to an attempted strong-arm robbery of Jenkins after someone dropped her off at 13th and Wingohocking streets in the Logan section of north Philadelphia. Clark said the driver of the car was not involved in the murder but had not yet been interviewed by detectives. Jenkins struggled while the four attackers punched and kicked her, Redding told police, adding that one of the men shot her in the back twice.
A bystander heard gunshots and called police, who transported the fatally wounded Jenkins to Einstein Hospital, where she was pronounced dead at 2:53 a.m.
Clark told The Daily Beast he has no inclination to suspect Jenkins was targeted because she was trans, but rather because the robbers thought she would be carrying a large amount of money. Redding told detectives that the robbery was his idea for which he recruited three friends, one of whom was the triggerman.
Clark told The Daily Beast that what struck him most about this case was the overwhelming love of Jenkins’s parents for the child they still refer to as “he.” Asked by a reporter at today’s press conference to clarify the appropriate pronoun, given the parents’ preference, Clark said the department had and would continue to use the victim’s gender as she identified it, and “as she was known to many friends.”
Upon being tipped off to two men, including Redding, known to do robberies, including a violent robbery “similar to this crime,” Clark said investigators found Redding.
When they began their investigation, police first looked to LGBTQ advocacy organizations, who represent a demographic with a learned fear of the police department. Skull-cracking Frank Rizzo, police chief through the 1960s and mayor from 1972 to 1980, “personally led Saturday night roundups of homosexuals.”
Deja Alvarez of the Trans-Health Information Project, or TIP, met with “several captains and an inspector” the day after the murder, and said that the Jenkins case demonstrates a tidal shift in the way the department handles crimes against trans people. Alvarez says that since the murder was reported her organization has received “non-stop phone calls and press interested in covering the story,” a new sensitivity for most Philly reporters who Alvarez said have consistently ignored emails and calls for gender corrections in the past.
“And the police, the police are really trying to do the right thing.”
“We have to stop assuming that this is a hate crime,” says Naiymah Sanchez, also of TIP, speaking as a member of the LGBTQ community after news of an arrest was announced. ”[Although Redding] was arrested in 2012 for robbing another trans woman in the same area, he was held on charges, and the complainant never showed up in court, so the charges were dropped.”
“I mean when you think of it, a week out, and they already have an assailant, and then you think of Stacy Blahnik nine years ago with no one captured, we’ve come a long way.”
The case may not demonstrate that LGBT individuals are no longer in danger of being lynched in downtown Philly, but it does make room for the community to build trust with the department—and that could ultimately make them much safer. Says TIP’s Alvarez: “If we sit back and wait for this case to unfold, we will be able to see the difference….even how the police have spoken to the press, and reached out [to TIP] before they had spoken to the press to make sure that what they were going to say about this individual was correct.”
Pressed to name the suspects or say when the neighborhood would know who has been terrorizing night-time park-goers, Clark said “the community is no longer in danger from these men.”