FARRELL, Pa. – Attempted murder and related charges against a 22-year-old transgender woman were bound over to a western Pennsylvania court on Tuesday.
Zachary T. McClimans, who prefers to be known as Claire, is accused of shooting her former co-worker, Jason Hall, 42, on Nov. 4 inside Wal-Mart in Hermitage, Pennsylvania.
Hall allegedly made threats and disparaging comments related to McClimans' decision to transition from a man to a woman, which motivated McClimans to shoot him, said Hermitage police criminal investigator John Miller.
Miller was the only person to testify at McClimans’ preliminary hearing. Hall was present with a lawyer but did not testify.
Hall, who Miller said had surgery to remove one of the bullets, was hospitalized for more than a week and a half. Three bullets are still lodged in Hall’s body and he also suffers from numbness in his left arm, Miller said.
Miller said he talked to Hall minutes after the shooting in an employee break room where a few other employees were also hiding.
“The store was opened for business. We tried to find employees ... There were several employees still hiding,” Miller said. “Some customers fled the store.”
According to Miller:
Hall told him that toward the end of his shift, McClimans was lurking nearby and following him around, which was “kind of creepy.” When he heard shots, Hall turned around and saw McClimans pointing at him.
Hall acknowledged he and McClimans had a dispute and said store management was looking into it, but did not say what the dispute was about.
Miller told the court that McClimans later said she filed a complaint with Wal-Mart when Hall threatened her because he had a problem with her personal decision about her gender identity.
McClimans said she was born male but self-identifies as a female, Miller told District Judge Ronald E. Antos.
“He (McClimans) was very truthful and very forthright,” during the interview, Miller said. “He became upset with Hall and was tired of working with him and thought the store wasn’t doing anything.”
Miller said the complaint was filed in October, about a month before the shooting, and McClimans said she and Hall continued to be scheduled in the same area on the same shift.
They were both scheduled to work the 2 to 11 p.m. shift on Nov. 4, Miller testified.
Miller said McClimans told him she clocked out around 2:40 p.m. because she was so upset after hearing Hall make a disparaging remark about her. She then went to a relative’s house, where she tried to calm down but just grew more and more upset.
According to Miller, McClimans told him she took the relative’s gun and went back to Wal-Mart, intent on shooting Hall. She wanted to wait until the end of Hall’s shift for him to exit the building and go into the parking lot, where she could get away after shooting him.
But McClimans instead entered the store because she liked her other co-workers and wanted to talk to them, Miller said. She bought a Mountain Dew and found Hall, Miller said.
Antos held for court charges of first- and third-degree attempted murder, aggravated assault, theft, carrying a firearm without a license and reckless endangerment. On a request from McClimans' lawyer, Antos also lowered McClimans’ bond to $300,000 from $500,000.
“That’s still $30,000 the family would have to post,” Ryan Mergl, McCliman's lawyer, said after the hearing, adding that he’s not able to comment on whether McClimans’ family could post the 10 percent of the lowered bond figure.
Mergl also commented afterward that, “We don’t have the full picture with the quote-unquote ‘victim,’ who I’d rather call Jason Hall. It’s clear that he’s less than innocent in this conflict.
“We’re also concerned with why Wal-Mart wasn’t doing anything about my client’s complaint. They should’ve taken action before that.”
Wal-Mart spokesman Charles Crowson confirmed to The Meadville Tribune a day after the shooting that McClimans “was terminated from his position at the store.”
Assistant District Attorney Mary Odem said, “We will do a full investigation” into McClimans’ allegations that Hall was threatening her with physical harm, but “the victim is facing no criminal charges.”
“... at this time,” Mergl added.
According to a study conducted by the National Center of Transgender Equality, 82 percent of transgender youth report being bullied and feeling unsafe at school or work, putting them at higher risk for depression, suicide and risky behavior.
An arraignment is scheduled for Jan. 31 before Mercer County Commons Pleas Court Judge Christopher J. St. John.
Melissa Klaric writes for the Sharon, Pennsylvania Herald.