July 8, 2014 at 10:31 am EDT | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Gay man assaulted, called ‘faggot’ at D.C. Safeway
Safeway, gay news, Washington Blade

Police are looking for this unidentified woman in connection with an alleged assault at a D.C. Safeway.

An unidentified female suspect punched a gay man several times in the face while calling him a faggot in an unprovoked attack on July 2 inside a Safeway store at 5th and L Streets, N.W., according to an account the victim gave to D.C. police.

A police report says the suspect, described as an African-American woman appearing in her 20s, was last seen fleeing eastbound on foot in the 400 block of L Street, N.W., where one of the entrances to the Safeway store is located.

On Monday, D.C. police posted to YouTube a video of the suspect taken from at least three security cameras at the Safeway store, asking the public to help police identify her. The police report describes her as being between 5 feet 6 inches and 5 feet 9 inches tall, weighing between 110 to 125 pounds, with brown eyes and a light brown complexion.

The victim, Mark Rutstein, a local Realtor, said Safeway employees told him they believe the suspect, who is a regular Safeway customer, might be associated with gang members at a nearby public housing project and that he feared for his safety.

D.C. police spokesperson Gwendolyn Crump told the Blade detectives have been assigned to investigate the case and are looking into whether “hate bias was a motive in this offense,” which police have listed as a simple assault.

Crump said police officials are also looking into why the officer who prepared the police report on the incident didn’t list the assault as a suspected hate crime, although he stated in the report that the victim said the suspect called him a “faggot” during the assault.

Rutstein told the Blade that three of the four officers who responded to the scene, including two from the department’s Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit, acted in a highly professional and supportive manner. He said the GLLU officers responded to a text message he sent the unit asking for help.

But he said the officer that took the report, Michael L. Shipman Meyer of the First District, treated him in a hostile and disparaging way and appeared “extremely annoyed to have to take this report.” Rutstein said he filed a complaint against Shipman with both the police department and the city’s independent Office of Police Complaints.

“The complaint was sent to MPD’s Internal Affairs Bureau and it is under investigation,” Crump told the Blade in an email.

According to the victim, the incident started when he approached a customer service and checkout line and saw the unidentified woman standing near but not directly in the line.

“So I walked up to the side of her and I said, ‘Excuse me, ma’am, are you in this line?’ And she looked at me as if she had more anger in her eyes than I have seen in a while,” said Rutstein, 40.

He said the woman didn’t say anything, prompting him to ask her one more time if she was in line. She again gave him an angry expression but said nothing. Then, seconds later, the woman backed into him with her shoulder, turned around and began punching him in the face while calling him a “faggot,” he said.

“I grabbed her dreads and I pulled her dreads down onto the floor and I restrained her in that position while she was continuing to try to punch my face but my reach was too far,” Rutstein said. “And I’m screaming for security and for them to call the police. All of the people on the line and working at the registers were frozen,” he recounted.

Seconds later security guards and an assistant manager rushed to the scene, he said. “They came at me like I was the assaulter and quickly told me to let go. When I did let go they did nothing to restrain her. They basically gave her the option to turn around and come back at me again.”

However, an assistant manager and two security guards instead escorted the woman to the front door of the store, allowing her to run away, he said.

“I told the assistant manager why aren’t you calling police? And he said if you want the police there’s the police station across the street,” Rutstein told the Blade.

Craig Muckle, the public affairs and government relations manager for Safeway’s Eastern Division, said he spoke to the store manager, who did not witness the incident but spoke to store employees.

“I’m hearing there was an effort to call police,” Muckle told the Blade.

He said that if a store employee told the victim the store could not call police in response to an incident such as this one, the employee is misinformed.

“If he was told that, it is not correct information,” said Muckle. “We don’t have a policy to prohibit that.”

Rutstein said he went to the police station across the street from the Safeway store and discovered the door was locked and no one answered a doorbell. He said he flagged down a police car on the street, and the officer in the car apparently arranged for Officer Shipman and another First District officer to arrive at the scene.

He said he also sent a text message to the GLLU. He said two officers from the GLLU arrived on the scene at the same time another two officers from the First Police District arrived.

He said GLLU Officer Justin Markiewicz and another officer requested and received permission from Safeway security guards to obtain a copy of the store’s security video footage that captured the assault and which has since been posted by police to YouTube.

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

    • DC Native

      Thank You Jeremy something makes me think Matthew’s story is phony a Black Neighborhood girl bye the city is still predominately Black take your pick unless it’s lower or central NW or SW They’re mostly Black neighborhoods! LOL!

    • El Dorado

      I don’t deny whites can be victims of racism, look at whites in Zimbabwe at the hands of Robert Mugabe for example.

      However, the attacker called the victim a faggot NOT a slur about being white. It was anti-gay and you should recognize that too. Further, the store employees did nothing to help the victim which only proves they didn’t care about the victim or a lawsuit because he was gay.

      Too many gay people like to believe it doesn’t matter anymore if you’re gay simply because we are more visible than ever before and having a string of legal victories for marriage equality in particular. We may be changing laws but not attitudes against GBTL people. Our enemies in frustration simply lash out against us whenever they can as they always have.

      The KKK and white supremacist still exist so why believe homophobia has been largely conquered? Obama despite being President is still treated like a bitch be the GOP conservatives and they hate him not only because he’s liberal but because he does so much for GLBT people.

      • DC Native

        Thank You El Dorado I still think Matthew may have issues with Blacks. You need to check that.

  • If that had happened to me, I certainly would sue the store for the lack of action. It is just amazing that after witnessing what happened they would just escort her to the door.

    Include those employees who witnessed it and the “security guards.”

  • Herb

    Please go to the Safeway Facebook page and leave a comment.

  • El Dorado

    I thought it was a man not a woman from the image. Closet case?

    So much for saying being gay doesn’t matter anymore. You stupid queens that say that are simply fooling yourselves!

  • TJ

    Randall William Dunkle, sorry dude but I too have witnessed that pro-Muslim group. As you said, being pro-Muslim isn’t in itself racism or “reverse racism.” But they do indeed spew a tremendous amount of vile anti-white rhetoric. And yes, they specific “white” in their speech and say “the white devil.” Are you suggesting that isn’t racist?

    J. Eric Goines: It’s not the Dupont Safeway. The story says 5th and L Sts. which would be a couple blocks from the Convention Center. It opened about four years ago.

  • brians ions

    “But he said the officer that took the report, Michael L. Shipman Meyer of the First District, treated him in a hostile and disparaging way and appeared ‘extremely annoyed to have to take this report.’ Rutstein said he filed a complaint against Shipman with both the police department and the city’s independent Office of Police Complaints.”
    =======================================================
    SHHH! Just cover it up and blame the victim.
     
    Soon we are likely to see/hear– yet again– hand-wringing excuses from Chief Lanier and/or AC Groomes lamenting the fact that their officers are not reporting suspected anti-LGBT hate crimes– not unless a victim complains to MPD’s GLLU or the news media.
     
    At what point do all those repeated excuses by MPD’s chiefs lose all credibility? Isn’t it just as likely that MPD’s rank-and-file officers are being told, quietly, by their superiors, to do what they are doing now?

    • DC Native

      Actually Johnny you would never see a self respecting Black or Hispanic woman doing it neither. And your point is?

  • brians ions

    “But he said the officer that took the report… of the First District, treated him in a hostile and disparaging way and appeared ‘extremely annoyed to have to take this report.'”
    =======================================
    SHHH! Just cover it up and blame the victim.
     
    Soon we are likely to see/hear– yet again– hand-wringing excuses from Chief Lanier and/or AC Groomes lamenting the fact that their officers are not initially reporting suspected anti-LGBT hate crimes on their 251 reports– not unless a victim further complains to MPD’s GLLU or the news media.
     
    At what point do all those repeated excuses by MPD’s chiefs lose all credibility? Isn’t it just as likely that MPD’s rank-and-file officers are being told, quietly, by their superiors, to do what they are doing now?
     
    MPD’s brass are delighted to have a competing “racism” thread going here, as it takes the focus off the most important failure that happened in this case, namely …
     
    the failure of MPD’s responding officer from 1D (First District) to treat this crime as the “HATE CRIME” it is.
     
    We have seen this kind of *INITIAL* MPD coverup response many time before in recent years. It is becoming standard operating procedure (SOP). And here’s how it plays out, in case you or yours are the next LGBT victim(s) of hate crimes…
     
    Before today’s MPD seriously enforces DC’s tough hate crimes law, the LGBT victim(s) has to know his or her rights, and then has to jump through additional hoops before MPD will do its J.O.B…
     
    Traumatized hate crimes victims have to make a second call to MPD (or GLOV or the LGBT news media) yet again before MPD’s GLLU unit will then “ride to the rescue.”
     
    MPD’s chiefs know that a certain percentage of crime victims will be DISCOURAGED or INTIMIDATED by a surly, dismissive MPD initial response.
     
    Many victims simply will not jump through MPD’s additional hoops. The crime does not get reported– or it gets “SHUT DOWN” altogether as was reported last year by Human Rights Watch regarding sexual assault victims in DC.
     
    Just GOOGLE: “human rights watch dc police video” and watch the vid.
     
    The very purpose and nature of police COVERUPS is “out of sight, out of mind.” And that is easily achieved when all power is concentrated within just a few people (in DC, that’s the mayor and his chief of police). If a crime gets buried, all the better for a chief’s and mayor’s crime statistics at election time.
     
    This is a LGBT public safety issue Muriel Bowser, David Catania and Carol Schwartz should be addressing. But they are not. Nor is Vince Gray, nor Phil Mendelson, nor is the rest of Council.
     
    So we have little effective check and balance of our police department and its ongoing abuse of crime victims. The independent DC office, *Office of Police Complaints* (OPC), provides an additional hoop-jumping alternative for crime victims abused by police.

    We are all in Mr. Rutstein’s debt for taking the time and hassle to jump through those unnecessary hoops created by MPD’s management.
     
    But OPC does not solve the larger, systemic problem. As cities like NY, Boston, Philadelphia, LA have done, DC should promptly adopt a POLICE COMMISSION system, so concentrations of abusive power is under constant review by more than just a few people.

  • Barrie Daneker

    Ok enough.

    Chief Lanier, you get that staff together and fire this officer ASAP! If an officer had taken this compliant from me an acted like such, you’d have me you face everyday making your life as the Chief a living hell. Cathy I’m sick of the shit pouring out of your mouth about what you are doing about this type of violence, but your inaction with the DCPD is outrageous. Cathy you fire someone or you are next! You can only take so much inaction before it bites you! The gays in DC are sick of your inaction on these hateful officers who have no respect. Stop this bullshit Cathy! You’re a great person and a good chief but this is enough. Otherwise I’m starting a hate campaign on you. So that every time you’re in public the gays will be like the Westboro Baptists when you appear. Cathy enough of the talk and action now!

    Mr. Muckle, and SAFEWAY, I spoke to you a few years back over an incident at your SW store near Arena Stage, and I got a great response. As for the staff at this store you need not fire a few of them so that they know no matter what the person looks like, smells like, or acts like, everyone deserves respect. The security you had on site need to be fired ASAP! I don’t want to hear any excuses!!! Otherwise Mr. Muckle the Hate Campaign on SAFEWAY begins today! There are enough gays in this town to put your silly ass store out of business so wake the F up! Safeway has a bad reputation with DC to begin with, so get your shit together or you’re out. We can stop your expansion; we can stop your company in many ways. Mr. Muckle you were warned that last time this happen this would not be acceptable!

    Furthermore, let this girl approach me at that Safeway. I’ll kick her ass so far down L St she’ll end up in Maryland. I cannot understand how she could have walked away with so many people there and security and management. It’s outrageous, but typical of the low life people living in DC that don’t give a rat ass about each other. DC wake up and watch out and take care of your fellow man. Otherwise this city is going to fall into the abyss again just like the 60’S when everyone who was a normal human left!

  • Claro

    I sent an email to business.ethics@safeway.com

  • brians ions

    Barrie, please understand that MPD’s rank-and-file officers are good, dedicated professionals trying to save their jobs and careers by obeying the wishes of their district commanders — all of whom are overseen and appointed by MPD’s chiefs (Lanier and Groomes).
     
    DC’s Police Union has been highly supportive of its LGBT officers and MPD’s GLLU unit.

    And even the chiefs have to answer to Gray, Mendelson, Wells and Council’s J-PS Committee Members. So part of the larger problem is both SYSTEMIC and POLITICAL.
     
    In other words, part of the problem is “we the people.” We should be demanding of all mayoral and Council candidates that DC go to a POLICE COMMISSION organization to address the persistent, systemic problem.
     
    I suspect the officer involved in the initial response in this case is not hateful at all. He is likely just overworked, disrespected and expected to perform his professional service in an unethical, dismissive manner by his MPD superiors.
     
    How would you like to be suddenly forced to work summer weekends away from and/or disrupting your loved ones without any OT pay? That’s what Lanier and Groomes are forcing them to do with their unlawful AHODs … along with massive sworn force shortages, to boot.
     
    So let’s remember always, don’t blame the working professionals at MPD for the bad management of their higher-ups.

  • Ted

    Let me guess..I’ll bet the manager and guards who ALLOWED her to escape are Black as well. By allowing her to go free and evade capture, they put their own stamps of approval on this assault. Secondly, the apathetic response by the police simply pours more salt in the victim’s wounds.To set the record straight here, I am Black and straight. Don’t think for a minute that because I am that I don’t care. This is an outrage and apparently things haven’t changed much in the Nation’s Capital. I lived in the DC area several years back and can say for a fact that the IS reverse discrimination against both Whites and Latinos. If you want your voices to be heard regarding this incident, vote with your wallets and pocketbooks. Don’t shop at a place that not only encourages this behavior, but denies it’s existence by refusing to respond and acknowledge.

  • anonymous

    I am an employee and this whole incident has been edited!!!! this is in no way no shape no form or size a discriminating crime besides the unidentified woman being labeled as a gang affiliate maybe this is a hate crime because of course she is an African American this guy appears to be a victim only because she fled the scene. she was at customer service she was already there he walked up and possibly asked if she was in line I mean it had to be obvious if not why ask on the footage it clearly shows she was at the service center not just standing in the middle of the store or aisle. any who moving on she gestured for him to go pass he may have accidentally stepped on her shoe and brushed passed her in a forceful manner she moved up he pushed her and she punched him twice he then pulled her by her hair as if she was a mange dog or a wild horse for at least one minute before pulling her down into a head lock while still holding her by her hair. her exact words while exiting was “punk ass” not faggot… but he’s no saint he also shouted suck my dick several times. not only is his statement edited but so is this video to fully understand and see all aspects of this incident the video should be aired racism still exists!!!!!!!

    • You Lie

      ^^ this message is completely a lie. Bring the tape to the public eye. Not one part of this is the truth. Nice try Safeway. Nice try. The community won’t let this die.

      • brians ions

        Yep. This is pretty obvious. But it is not likely Safeway that is doing the ‘shilling’ here.
         
        Like I said, MPD doesn’t lie– nor manipulate the news media very credibly. MPD’s PR mavens have been getting away with it for so long, they actually think they are doing it well. 
         
        Prompted by MPD-HQ (the Chief’s Office), “news commentary” shills have been known to add their own ‘anonymous’ or pseudonym commentary to make MPD and/or its chiefs look good. The Chief even had to apologize to me once for comparable MPD conduct on MPD’s own Fifth District Listserv– with a number of Council witnesses. 
         
        At that time, she promised me MPD would try to do better. It hasn’t.

  • karatechick1981

    60 years ago, she would have been the victim of a hate crime.

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