D.C. police on Tuesday said the printed version of a police report of a July 2 assault of a gay man inside a Safeway store by an unidentified woman who allegedly called the victim a “faggot” incorrectly omitted the report’s designation of the incident as a possible hate crime.
Police spokesperson Gwendolyn Crump said the police officer who prepared the report answered “yes” on a computer generated form that asks whether an incident is a “suspected hate crime.”
“The box was checked Yes for Hate Crime, but it printed blank in that section,” Crump told the Blade in an email. “Our IT folks are looking into this.”
A printed version of the report obtained by the Blade at the First District police station on July 5 showed the box asking about a possible hate crime as being blank, with no designation of a hate crime.
However, in a separate section of the report, the reporting officer’s statement that the victim told police the suspect called him a “faggot” during the assault did appear in the printed version.
The incident occurred inside the Safeway store at 5th and L Streets, N.W. Expressions of outrage about the incident surfaced on social media postings following a Blade story on Monday that reported an account of the incident by the victim, local Realtor Mark Rutstein.
According to Rutstein, two Safeway security guards and an assistant manager escorted the suspect to the front entrance of the store on L Street and allowed her to flee the scene.
“I told the assistant manager why aren’t you calling police?” Rutstein told the Blade. “And he said if you want the police there’s a police station across the street.”
Rutstein said police arrived at the store after he flagged down a police car on the street and asked for help. Eventually four police officers arrived, two of whom were members of the department’s Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit. Two of them obtained from Safeway security guards electronic copies of video footage of the assault and the fleeing suspect captured on the store’s security cameras.
Police on Monday posted parts of the video to YouTube and asked the public for help in identifying the female suspect.
Rutstein said the suspect, described as being an African-American woman appearing between 21 and 31 years old, punched him several times in the face in an unprovoked attack after he approached her at a customer service line in the store and politely asked her if she was in 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.
When the woman didn’t reply he asked her the same question again, Rutstein said. She again did not answer him, but seconds later she backed into him with her shoulder, turned around and began punching him in the face while calling him “faggot,” Rutstein said.
In attempting to defend himself he pulled the woman to the floor by her hair and held her down while screaming for security to help him, he said. When security guards arrived they told him to release the woman, and he complied with their request, he said.
That’s when over Rutstein’s objection the guards and the assistant manager escorted her to the door, where her flight from the scene on foot was captured by one of the store’s outdoor security cameras.
Although three of the police officers that arrived on the scene acted in a professional and respectful way, the officer taking the police report was hostile and disparaging toward him, Rutstein said. He filed a complaint against that officer, which police say they are now investigating.