Police have charged a 20-year-old man with the murder of Merci Mack Richey, a Black transgender woman shot and killed in Dallas on the last day of Pride Month.
The North Texas Fugitive Task Force arrested Angelo Walker on Wednesday. He appeared in court on Thursday, charged with murder and breaking probation for a past aggravated robbery. No attorney is listed for him.
Richey, 22, was found dead with multiple gunshot wounds in a parking lot in the Stone Crest apartments in South Dallas at 6:15 a.m. on June 30.
According to the arrest affidavit, a witness came forward to say he saw Walker "chasing a woman through the parking lot firing a handgun at her" around 5 a.m. The witness, who was not named out of fear of retaliation, knew Walker and recognized the ski mask he often wore.
“He observed him stand over her and fire multiple shots at her as she was on the ground,” investigators wrote.
At the time of her death, Richey was at least the 18th trans person killed in 2020, the majority of whom were Black trans women. The Human Rights Campaign estimates that 21 trans people have been killed so far in 2020, with four killed in the last week, three of whom were Black trans women.
The arrest affidavit by investigators said Walker and Richey had had an "altercation" about a video of the two of them that she planned to release.
Richey posted on her Facebook on June 29: "Brand new video on my private snap in jusssst a minute y’all have to see how nasty I got with this nigga!"
A friend of hers, Dolly Part, posted on Facebook that Richey and Walker had known each other since they were kids and that he used to bully her.
"I’m so creeped out this man TEASED my bestie for being gay in middle school whole time he really had a crush on her that’s sick you tried to cover your dirt !" she wrote. "You seen her before she transitioned you weren’t tricked it makes sense now you liked my bestie since we were kids then turned around & took her life we can’t get her back over some dumb ass shit !!"
In recent weeks a vigil and a balloon release have been held to celebrate Richey's life and show support for Black trans lives. Richey's family held a wake for her on Thursday evening with small groups allowed to view the body as a precaution against the coronavirus.
Her family agreed to release a photo of Richey's body at the wake. She was dressed in pink with long blonde braids. Piles of roses covered the casket, and a pink wall hanging with her face and name (including her nickname, "Pooda") was placed next to the open casket.
"Her mother wanted everybody to see how beautiful things were and choose to honor Merci and her life and how she lived," said Shannon Walker, the founder of Nu Trans Movement, a Dallas organization aimed at supporting trans lives.
Walker arranged a professional photographer to take the photo, saying she'd seen with the deaths of other trans people how powerful and mobilizing it can be to see the wake and understand the huge loss to the family and loved ones.
"Dallas has become the epicenter of violence, harassment, and discrimination when it comes to trans people in the South," said Walker. She called on the community to look at the photos of Richey and understand that change is needed — and also that Richey's family loved her and were proud of her being trans, even in death.
"I want their response to be 'enough is enough,'" said Walker. "What is going on with our Black guys killing these Black transgender women? It’s happening too much. We need to address this."
Walker called on Black families and the Black community to support all forms of gender and sexual identities and to encourage that "love is love and it's OK to love who you love."
She noted that some men kill trans women out of fear of others learning about their sexuality, but that the deaths do not stop the truth from emerging.
"She’s dead, and now the secrets are still coming out," said Walker.
Walker said that Richey had been shot 10 times and her body was only released to the family on Wednesday.
"Merci was loved," said Walker. "Her family loved her. Her dad, her mom, loved her unconditionally, and that is rare to see in the Black community when it comes to young Black trans folk."
Dozens of people posted on social media after Richey's death, recounting her funny and loud personality.
"Seeing my bestie lifeless is not how I will remember her," wrote a friend after the wake on Facebook. "I’ll remember the bossy attitude, the loudness, the confidence, the biggest prettiest smile ever, the LOVE she had for me. Life Is Precious."
A funeral will take place Friday afternoon in Dallas.
Correction: The name of the Human Rights Campaign was misstated in an earlier version of this post.