Assault on Transgender Woman in Northeast D.C. Still Not Considered Bias Crime, Police Say

Assistant Police Chief Peter Newsham, right, with Jeffrey Richardson, an adviser to Mayor Vince Gray on LGBT issues.

The Metropolitan Police Department said at a press conference Thursday evening it is making headway in investigations of three recent violent crimes in which two victims were gay men and another was a transgender woman.

Assistant Chief Peter Newsham, who heads up MPD’s investigative services branch, said the investigation into a shooting early Sunday morning at the IHOP restaurant in Columbia Heights was “going well.” Newsham confirmed earlier reports that the shooting, which left the victim with non-life-threatening injuries, arose out of a verbal confrontation between the group the victim was dining with and another group of IHOP patrons. The argument started when the group the assailant was with started flinging homophobic slurs toward the victim’s table, Newsham said.

One of the witnesses to the shooting was an off-duty MPD detective who intervened in the fight, according to an email sent to Columbia Heights residents by Councilmember Jim Graham (D-Ward 1), who represents the area.

In the second incident, a man was assaulted at the corner of Georgia Avenue and Irving Street NW about 9:40 p.m. Monday. The victim, who was hospitalized with non-life-threatening injuries including a broken jaw, was attacked by a group of assailants at first seeking to rob him, Newsham said, but evidence has been found suggesting that the incident was also motivated by anti-gay bias. It was originally reported that separate groups of assailants had attacked the victim and then stolen his personal belongings, but police are still determining whether this was the case.

Both the shooting Sunday and Georgia Avenue assault on Monday are being investigated as bias-motivated crimes. The third incident, however, is not, despite circumstances that some activists say should make it designated as such.

About 11:52 p.m. on Monday, a transgender woman was assaulted and knocked unconscious near the intersection of West Virginia Avenue and Mount Olivet Road NE. Newsham said the motive is still unknown, although there is “some” information to suggest it was biased. The victim, The Washington Blade reported Wednesday, could not immediately recall the details of her assault, but told investigators at a hospital later that she said she believed she was attacked because she is transgender.

However, police say they do not have enough evidence to conclude the attack was an anti-transgender crime. The ambiguity is nagging at transgender activists like Jason Terry of the D.C. Trans Coalition, who has been critical of MPD’s handling of several recent violent crimes that have left transgender victims dead or seriously wounded. Terry told DCist yesterday he believes the incident should be classified as one driven by an anti-transgender bias. “”I trust the victim here,” he said. “I hope MPD does.”

But he was disappointed when hearing Thursday evening the case had not been designated as a potential hate crime. “Of course not. Sigh,” Terry wrote on Twitter.

Newsham was joined at the impromptu press conference by Jeffrey Richardson, who head up Mayor Vince Gray’s outreach efforts into the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities.

"We are very concerned when we think about bias crimes," Richardson said.

Richardson also urged people to be on the lookout for their personal safety: “No one should put themselves in a situation where they might be harmed,” he said.

For the year, Newsham said MPD had investigated nine bias crimes—four dealing with sexual orientation, three with race and two with ethnicity. He said 2012 is behind the pace set in 2011, when police investigated 91 incidents believed to be motivated by bias.

So glad to know that trans people and some allies marching in the very spot where they did that press conference made no impact on the MPD.  Unfuck this shit.