D.C. police on July 3 arrested the second of two women accused of assaulting a gay male drag performer inside a carry out pizza restaurant in Northwest D.C. that was captured on video and created an uproar in the LGBT community.
Authorities charged Rachel Manna Sahle, 22, with simple assault and attempted second-degree theft for allegedly trying to steal the victim’s purse, according to a charging document filed in court by the U.S. Attorney’s office.
Raymone Harding, 28, who was charged one day earlier with a single count of simple assault, and Sahle appeared at a D.C. Superior Court arraignment on July 3, where the two pled not guilty to the charges filed against them.
Judge Karen Howze released them on personal recognizance pending trial on condition that they undergo drug testing, report to the court’s Pre-Trial Services Agency, and stay away from Miles Denaro, 24, the drag performer the two are accused of assaulting.
Charging documents filed in court identify Harding as a nurse.
Howze ordered Sahle and Harding to return to court on Sept. 5 for a status hearing before Judge Juliet McKenna, who will take over the case at that time. Court records identify the two women as residents of Gaithersburg, Md.
Drag performer Denaro, a D.C. resident, told the Blade he identifies as a gay man. He told police and the Blade that the two women dragged him by his hair across the floor at Manny & Olga’s pizza carry out restaurant at 1841 14th St., N.W., while they punched and kicked him in the face and body. A police report says the incident took place shortly after 3 a.m. on Sunday, June 23.
Denaro said he was dressed as a woman when he entered the restaurant shortly after finishing a drag performance at the nearby Black Cat nightclub. He said the two women started the altercation by making fun of his makeup, with one of them, Sahle, touching his face. He said one of them slapped him in the face after he demanded that they leave him alone. He said the women called him a “tranny” and “faggot” as the incident unfolded.
LGBT activists who watched the video posted online have expressed concern that employees at the restaurant didn’t intervene and, according to police, did not call police while the incident unfolded.
A D.C. police arrest affidavit filed in court says Harding and Sahle gave a different account of what happened than that given by Denaro. It says Harding described the incident as a fight “among several intoxicated customers.”
The affidavit says Sahle accused Denaro of biting her on her thigh in the midst of the fight. She said he told her she would get AIDS as a result of the bite, according to the affidavit.
Denaro told the Blade he bit Sahle in self-defense while he was pinned down on the floor by Harding and while Sahle was pulling out his hair. He said he informed the two women he has HIV after he realized his head was bleeding from injuries he received from the assault.
The affidavit says police decided to charge Sahle and Harding in the case after police investigators observed the video taken by one of the customers at the restaurant that was posted on at least three websites and after viewing a second video provided by Manny & Olga’s that was taken by the restaurant’s security surveillance cameras.
“Defendant 1 [Sahle] was face to face with the complainant and attempted to snatch his purse and then grabbed the complainant’s hair,” the police affidavit says. “Defendant 1 pulled the complainant several feet by his hair…then let go of the hair and threw several punches at the complainant’s head,” it says, citing police observation of both videos.
The affidavit says Denaro spit at Defendant 2 [Harding] after Harding “grabbed the complainant’s wrists and pushed him against a wall in the corner of the store, holding him against the wall.”
At that point, Sahle “grabbed the complainant’s hair and both Defendant 1 and Defendant 2 began punching the complainant in the face and head,” the affidavit says.
The incident involving the alleged assault against Denaro is one of six incidents in D.C. over an eight-day period beginning June 21 in which two transgender women were shot and wounded, a lesbian was shot to death, two other trans women were stabbed and another was sexually assaulted.
Police said only one of the six incidents — the non-fatal shooting of a transgender woman — is being investigated as a possible hate crime. Police officials have said the others were linked to robbery attempts or a dispute between the suspect and victim. Police have not said what they believe the motive was that triggered the assault against Denaro.