July 9, 2014 at 11:57 am EST | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Police say officer reported Safeway assault as hate crime
Safeway, gay news, Washington Blade

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

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.

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

  • “Our IT folks are looking into this.”
    Oh, puh-leeze, Ms. Crump!
    Bridges for sale at bargain-basement prices!
    Get yours from MPD, now, folks!
    And if you believe that one, MPD may just find another inexplicable “after the fact” error.
    Didn’t MPD suddenly find all those (hundreds, wasn’t it?) missing sexual assault reports within a few weeks when Human Rights Watch outed their rape coverups last year?
    Everyone should understand that MPD’s PD 251 incident report *Suspected Bias/Hate Crime* designation box– or however it is labeled these days– is a very simple *CHECKOFF*, like a computer “radio button” requiring just a finger tap. It is completely separate from the more descriptive narrative section of an incident report.

    BTW, police incident reports are always subject to change and ‘amending’– one way or the other.
    MPD under Gray has been prevaricating so long and so routinely, they can’t even lie well. Be not fooled, people.

    Again, we are all in Mr. Rutstein’s debt for taking the time and effort to report this nonfeasance and MPD mistreatment to OPC (DC’s independent Office of Police Complaints).

  • Sounds like a bunch of people should lose their jobs…the guards, the assistant manager and at least one cop. Get a good lawyer Mark.

  • Todd, it almost goes without saying anymore that Chief Lanier’s spokesperson’s response was laughably not credible. I can’t tell you how many ‘the-dog-ate-my-homework’ excuses I’ve heard from MPD — at all levels — for the past 7+ years.
    But I encourage you and everyone in DC to keep a more open mind regarding the errant responding officer in this incident. Things at MPD are not as they may seem at first glance.
    Ask yourself, WHAT IF… that report-taking officer was responding exactly as most, if not all of his MPD superiors expected him to respond?

    What if he would lose his job or be forever branded as uncooperative to MPD’s management?
    Indeed, what if that officer was operating with a SECRET, ‘shadow’ set of longstanding– as in several years worth– of in-house rules, all made and directed at the highest levels of MPD’s chain-of-command?

    What if DC crimes of all sorts are getting massively suppressed so that MPD’s (i.e., the Chief’s and Mayor’s) crime stats can look good at election time?

    And what if everyone at MPD could never, ever talk about or write about that situation publicly?
    Think about all the implications of that kind of insidious, well-insulated police MANAGEMENT corruption for LGBT public safety, and for ALL DC public safety, really. And I think you’ll begin to see how police corruption at MPD is of a very high order.
    Of course the complaint/ complaints to MPD (LOL), and preferably, OPC, in this case, and all such cases, MUST be brought against the responding officer(s). As concerned citizens and crime victims/ victims of MPD malfeasance, we have no legal alternatives to that course of action.

    Still, the MPD officers (pawns) at the bottom of the chain-of-command are there to be sacrificed if necessary to protect the well-paid, higher-ups at MPD. None of us should forget that.
    Fortunately, to the extent they can, the ‘DC Police Union’ has become more proactive in countering and competing with Chief Lanier’s PR/Media machine, so the public can be better informed.
    BTW, the DC Police Union has always been very supportive of MPD’s LGBT officers and of MPD’s GLLU unit.
    I encourage everyone to visit DC Police Union’s website frequently. It has better crime mapping for every neighborhood in DC– with lots of interesting crime prevention information. And you’ll get a better, more balanced view if what’s really going on at MPD, too.

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