Acting D.C. Police Chief Peter Newsham was among the officers to arrive on the scene Sunday afternoon at the LGBT community center Casa Ruby after employees reported that a male attacker smashed through the front door, assaulted an employee, and threatened to return to kill someone.
A police spokesperson said the department expected to release to the news media on Sunday night a flier with a photo and description of a suspect wanted for the Casa Ruby attack that would appeal for help from the public in the police effort to find him.
Casa Ruby founder and executive director Ruby Corado described the attacker as a man in his early 20s who identifies as straight and who has visited Casa Ruby several times in the recent past for the purpose of meeting female transgender clients who seek services at Casa Ruby.
“By law we cannot tell non-LGBT people not to come in,” Corado told the Washington Blade.
Although this individual had not caused serious problems in previous visits, he was asked to leave during his visit on Sunday, March 12, after he allegedly began harassing and threatening other clients and staff members, according to Corado.
Shortly after leaving, the suspect returned with a large object that appeared to be a brick and used it to smash through Casa Ruby’s front door, which an employee had locked after the suspect left. After re-entering, the suspect, in a rage, threw objects at a transgender female employee who had asked him to leave and assaulted her by forcefully bumping into her more than once, Corado said. The employee was not seriously injured.
He fled the scene after another employee shouted she had called police, Corado said.
Acting Police Lt. Brett Parson, who oversees the department’s special liaison units, including the LGBT Liaison Unit and who also was on the scene, said one of the officers that first responded to the incident put out an alert over the police internal radio system that gave a description of the suspect and asked other officers stationed nearby to look for him.
Corado said at least one Casa Ruby employee took photos and video of the suspect with a cell phone as he appeared to go on a rampage inside the Casa Ruby offices and facilities. She said Casa Ruby turned over the photos and video to police.
Corado noted that Casa Ruby’s offices, located at 2822 Georgia Ave., N.W., serve as an emergency hypothermia shelter for mostly homeless LGBT people at times when temperatures approach or fall below freezing. She said at least a half dozen or more people were at the facility, which includes cots for sleeping at night, when the suspect entered Casa Ruby shortly before 2 p.m. on Sunday.
“People are saying he is a tranny chaser,” said Corado, in describing the impression her employees have of the suspect. “He made it clear that he was a straight man,” said Corado, who described a “tranny chaser” as someone who seeks out transgender people for dating or sexual relations but often is confused and troubled over their own sexuality.
“Whatever his motive, he had no right to become violent and destroy our property,” Corado said. “He did not come for services. He came to prey on people.”
Parson said officers investigating the incident were preparing an affidavit in support of an arrest warrant for the suspect on at least three charges – misdemeanor assault, destruction of property-felony, and making threats to kill, also a felony.
Corado said Newsham arrived on the scene in response to a text message she sent him expressing concern that the suspect might return to harm Casa Ruby employees and clients. Newsham, whose nomination by the mayor to be the permanent chief of police is expected to be approved by the D.C. Council, invited her to call him about concerns over police related issues, Corado told the Blade.
“He assured me this man is going to be caught,” Corado said.