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Woman charged in IHOP shooting of gay man

Hate crime designation uncertain

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D.C. police on Monday arrested a 27-year-old woman in connection with the March 11 shooting of a gay man at the International House of Pancakes restaurant in Columbia Heights that police listed as an anti-gay hate crime.

At a news conference Monday afternoon, D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray and Police Chief Cathy Lanier announced that police charged LaShawn Yvonne Carson with aggravated assault while armed.

D.C. Superior Court records show that Carson appeared at a presentment hearing on Monday shortly before the news conference. Court records show that Judge Diana Harris Epps ordered Carson held without bond pending a preliminary hearing scheduled for 9 a.m. Thursday.

“I am pleased and relieved to announce that a suspect in this dastardly crime has been arrested,” Gray said in a statement released at the news conference.

“As I said at the time of the shooting, while all crime is horrific and destructive to the fabric of our community, hate crimes are particularly insidious because they instill fear in an entire group,” he said. All of our residents should have the right to walk the streets of our neighborhoods free of fear that they will be targeted because of their identities beliefs or characteristics.”

Lanier said at the news conference that although police classified the shooting as a bias crime related to the victim’s sexual orientation, it would be up to the United States Attorney’s Office to decide whether to add a bias related designation to the charge of aggravated assault while armed.

Matt Jones, a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s office, said Tuesday that prosecutors with the office don’t make a decision on whether to designate a case as a hate crime until it comes before a grand jury further along in the prosecution.

“Our investigation in the case is onging,” he said. “That is not something we normally charge at this point.”

Under the D.C. hate crimes law, those convicted of a hate designated crime of violence are subjected to a greater penalty, including additional time served in prison.

“This is an enormous relief,” said D.C. Council member Jim Graham (D-Ward 1), in commenting on the arrest. Graham, who’s gay and who spoke at the news conference, called the shooting “an insane act” that created an atmosphere of fear in the community.

“To shoot somebody at breakfast in a public restaurant over a perceived slight is insane behavior by any standard,” he said “So this is a great relief for the community that I represent,” said Graham, noting that the IHOP restaurant is located in his ward.

Police said the 31-year-old male victim in the shooting reportedly had been subjected to anti-gay name calling. The victim’s cousin, who was present during the incident, told the Blade that a scuffle broke out near the entrance of the restaurant when the woman and two male friends blocked the victim’s path when he got up to pay the bill. Police said witnesses saw a scuffle break out and heard the firing of a gun.

Assistant Police Chief Peter Newsham said last week that the incident may have been captured on a video surveillance system at the restaurant.

Police said the victim had been treated in a hospital for a non-life threatening gunshot wound.

The shooting took place one day before two other incidents of anti-LGBT violence surfaced in the city. A 29-year-old gay man was badly beaten and robbed a short distance away at Georgia Avenue and Irving Streets, N.W. about 9:30 p.m. on March 12. Police and the victim’s partner said attackers called the victim anti-gay names.

Police listed the incident as an anti-gay hate crime

At about 11:45 p.m. that same day, a transgender woman was knocked unconscious at West Virginia Avenue and Mt. Olivet Road, N.E. by at least two assailants, police said. Police said the woman was unable to hear whether the attackers used anti-trans language during the attack and have insufficient evidence so far to list the incident as a hate crime.

The three incidents prompted friends of the 29-year-old victim to organize a march through the streets of Columbia Heights and other parts of the city last week to draw attention to anti-LGBT violence. Close to 700 people turned out for the event.

“I would like to thank the mayor, chief of police and the MPD for the swift response and arrest of a suspect in the heinous shooting of a member of the LGBT community at the IHOP in Columbia Heights,” said gay activist Peter Rosenstein. “No one, no matter what their cultural background, color or sexual orientation should feel unsafe in our community.”

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13 Comments

13 Comments

  1. TmarK53c

    March 26, 2012 at 7:19 pm

    Glad she was caught, however, it would be really nice if they would try to catch those responsible for all of the Trans killings as well. Not much being said or done on that front…kind of expected though.

    • TmarK53c

      March 27, 2012 at 12:02 pm

      REALLY?, Not a hate crime? uh..duh…I’m so confused. And here I thought that when people get singled out because of an inborn characteristic, with hate slurs hurled at them, and then get shot, well I kinda think that it is a hate crime! What planet are you from?

      • RJM

        March 27, 2012 at 4:02 pm

        IT’S A CRMINAL ACT, PERIOD!, NOTING MORE, NOTHING LESS.

    • oleskool59

      March 29, 2012 at 6:29 pm

      I just dont understand why the LGBT society is such a MF threat to all you so-called straight people. Gay people dont want your stupid ass. So what are you sfraid of? Just like the KKK you are ignorant of those who got their shit together-Punk MF’s

  2. RJM

    March 26, 2012 at 10:43 pm

    This make me harken back to my childhood and the tale of the ‘Boy Who Cried Wolf’ stop making this incident into something it’s not, IT NOT A HATE CRIME!

    • Norman

      March 27, 2012 at 1:54 pm

      Not a hate crime? so if the gay guy had yelled the “N” word while shooting the black, that isnt a hate cirme either? look, dumdum, hate crimes are charged because simple bigoted fools in small towns arent prosecuting to the full extent of the law-this ensures that teh perosn gets the MAX sentence-we cant have savages pulling out guns in IHOPS can we??

    • bigots are bigots

      April 15, 2012 at 4:13 am

      only in what I am sure is your hateful mind. Wonde4r what you would think if someone shot your kid etc

  3. brian

    March 27, 2012 at 2:45 pm

    This is waay not enough performance from MPD. We need more detailed information from MPD regarding the other two hate crimes that week. And we need those cases closed, as well.

    Just because MPD claims there is no evidence of a “hate crime”– specifically, a criminal violation of DC’s Bias-Related Crimes Act– doesn’t mean MPD has appropriately investigated a case for such evidence. Everyone needs to keep drilling down to see if MPD responders and detectives are effectively pursuing a case.

    Also, if a verbal or other overt indicator of a hate (bias-related) motive occurred, on a time line *BEFORE* the overt act of a robbery, why shouldn’t a hate crime be considered by MPD the PRIMARY motive in a case?

    The case of the violent assault by two perpetrators on a trans woman in NE still has many unanswered questions. In which (and from which) direction was she walking? That might give potential neighborhood witnesses a clue as to the perpetrators– as well as potential other victims a warning. Were neighborhood businesses and residents canvassed both for eye/ear witnesses and available security cams? And ASAP, in a timely manner? Is there absolutely no description of the assailants at all? Why was the assault not even reported on 5D’s Daily Crimes Report on the MPD-5D listserv?

    Even the absence of hate crimes evidence in a fully investigated case does not mean that the crime was not a hate crime. It just means that MPD/USAO will unlikely be able to prove that in court of law beyond a shadow of a doubt.

    In the absence of any other likely motive, IMHO that WV Avenue NE case very likely WAS a hate crime.

  4. Pinc Stincs

    March 27, 2012 at 10:21 pm

    The media’s political correctness of refusing to describe the perpetrators of these crimes are killing us because we have no idea of whom to be on the “lookout” for. Age? Sex? Was it a group of 2? 3? 4? Were they White? Black? Asian? What’s up here folks????

    • Phil Reese

      March 28, 2012 at 12:06 pm

      The story states quite clearly it was two men and one woman, and since they’d not been identified yet, its impossible to determine age.

  5. One down, the rest of the city to go

    April 13, 2012 at 8:48 am

    Half the city of DC is a hate crime waiting to happen. DC is one tension ridden place and these people that live in the heart of the District are out of control. Anyone that thinks they can shoot someone in an IHOP is crazy. I certainly hope the prosecutor takes the time and location of the shooting into consideration. This wasn’t a normal argument that escalated out of control. These three thugs were true haters that were looking for big trouble as the first thing on their daily agenda. She deserves a good 30 year sentence for the gun violence alone. Add in the bias crime enhancement and add another 10 years. Hopefully we won’t see her again until the middle of the century.

  6. Lauravan

    April 21, 2012 at 10:08 pm

    The perps of this crime were black. This is typical of the homophobic M.P.D. They must need a perpetrator to carve the word “fag” on the victims chest in order for these idiot detectives to have enough evidence of a hate crime. When someone is calling you a faggot right before they shoot you, THAT’S A HATE CRIME! The real deal is that the detectives are protecting their own when they won’t charge the perps with the Hate Crimes enhancement. M.P.D. is full of bigots. I hear them running their mouths all the damn time when I’m around them.

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Gay man attacked, beaten by neighbors in Northeast D.C.

Police list incident as hate crime but courthouse ‘backlog’ could delay arrests

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Antonio Zephir was beaten by neighbors and fears for his life. (Photo courtesy of Zephir)

A woman, her daughter, and a man believed to be the daughter’s father repeatedly punched a gay man in the face while the mother called him a “Jewish faggot” and other anti-gay slurs during an Oct. 13 incident on the grounds of an apartment building where the victim and the two women live, according to the victim and a D.C. police incident report.

The victim, Antonio Zephir, 51, told the Washington Blade the incident began after the mother began shouting anti-gay slurs at him as he walked past her and his roommate outside the Northwood Gardens Apartments at 4870 Fort Totten Dr., N.E. at about 12:40 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 13. 

Zephir identifies the mother as Aurlora Y. Ellis in court papers seeking a restraining order against her that he filed in D.C. Superior Court. He said she had acted in a hostile way toward him before the assault incident.

“For several months, every time Ms. Ellis sees me, she shouts homophobic slurs and I continued to ignore her,” Zephir told the Blade in an email.

He said that minutes before the Oct. 13 attack, Ellis yelled the words “Jewish faggot” when he walked past her as she was talking to his roommate, Steven Johnson. Zephir said it is well known among his neighbors at the apartment complex that he is of the Jewish faith.

“I responded with not-so-kind words. She ran towards me and assaulted me with hard punches toward my face,” Zephir wrote in his email to the Blade. 

“I punched back in an attempt to defend myself,” he wrote. “Mr. Johnson tried to break us up when her daughter Latera Cox and [Cox’s] father assaulted me,” according to Zephir’s account of the incident. “Ms. Ellis yelled, ‘Call the police, you bitch faggot. They’re not going to do anything. This isn’t over yet.”

At that point, Ellis, her daughter Latera Cox, and the man Zephir believes to be Cox’s father fled the scene, Zephir told the Blade.

The D.C. police incident report, which lists the assault as a suspected hate crime, says, “All three suspects then fled east bound” on the 4800 block of Fort Totten Dr., N.E.

Zephir said he immediately called police, who arrived on the scene and took a report on the incident. The report obtained by the Blade lists the incident as a simple assault, which is a misdemeanor under D.C. law.

But Zephir said a detective working on the case told him this week that police were looking into speeding up the process of obtaining warrants for the arrest of the three attackers based, in part, on the injuries Zephir suffered from the attack. He provided the Blade with a medical report issued by the Washington Hospital Center, where his roommate took him to the emergency room the day following the attack, in response to severe pain he was experiencing to his face and head.

The report from the hospital, which treated and released him on Oct. 14, says he was diagnosed as having a fractured nose; a fracture of the “interior orbital wall,” which is the bone surrounding one of his eyes; subconjunctival hemorrhage or bleeding of his left eye; and “laceration of oral cavity” which means an injury inside his mouth caused by trauma from the assault.

Zephir told the Blade that the same detective told him last week that due to a “backlog” in cases at the D.C. Superior Court, it could take between one and two months for police and prosecutors to obtain warrants for the arrests of the two women and the man who assaulted him.

A police spokesperson told the Blade the case remains under active investigation. A spokesperson for the Office of the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, which acts as the prosecutor for adult criminal cases in D.C., said he would look into whether the office could publicly comment on the status of efforts to obtain arrest warrants for the three attackers.

Zephir said rumors had surfaced prior to the assault incident that Ellis may have access to a gun. Based on what he feared was a threat by Ellis when she told him during the attack that “this isn’t over yet,” he said he persuaded his roommate to drive him to the courthouse on the same day as the attack to apply for a court restraining order to prevent Ellis from harming him again.

Court records show he also filed a civil complaint against Ellis, Ellis’s daughter, and Ellis’s roommate, Linda Miller, who Zephir says in the complaint acted as an “enabler” for Ellis’ hostility toward him.

The complaint, which is a civil lawsuit that Zephir wrote by hand and filed by himself without hiring a lawyer, calls for $18,000 in damages.  

“I have nightmares,” Zephir told the Blade. “I can’t believe it happened. I keep reliving the experience over and over and over in my head,” he said. “And I feel like I’m a prisoner in my own apartment. I don’t feel safe because I, honest to God, feel like she is going to bodily harm me and I might be, God forbid, murdered.”

Ellis, Cox, and Miller could not immediately be reached for comment.

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Biden endorses Roem for re-election

Former journalist is first out trans person in any state legislature

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Virginia state Del. Danica Roem (D-Manassas) speaks to supporters following her re-election on Nov. 5, 2019. President Biden has endorsed her for re-election. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

President Biden on Tuesday endorsed Virginia state Del. Danica Roem (D-Manassas) for re-election.

Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn (D-Fairfax County) is among the other Democratic members of the Virginia House of Delegates who Biden backed. Biden in his tweet also stressed his support of Terry McAuliffe, who is running against Republican Glenn Youngkin to succeed Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam.

“Building back better starts in the states,” tweeted Biden. “Since flipping the legislature in 2019, Virginia Democrats have been a model of progress—including helping us vaccinate folks to beat the pandemic. To keep our progress, we must elect Terry McAuliffe and Democrats up and down the ballot.”

Roem, a former journalist, in 2018 became the first openly transgender person seated in any state legislature in the U.S.

Biden called Roem on the night she defeated then-state Del. Bob Marshall and congratulated her. A Washington Post picture that showed Roem crying moments later went viral.

The Manassas Democrat who represents the 13th District in 2019 easily won re-election. Christopher Stone, the Republican who is running against Roem in this cycle, opposes marriage and adoption rights for same-sex couples.

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Conservatives blame pro-trans policy after assaults in Loudoun schools

‘Gender fluid’ 15-year-old accused of attacking female students

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The Loudoun County, Va., public school system’s recently adopted policy of allowing students to use the bathroom that matches their gender identity has come under fire over the past two weeks by outraged parents and conservative political activists following reports that a 15-year-old “gender fluid” boy allegedly sexually assaulted two girls in different high schools.

The parents of one of the girls released a statement through the Virginia-based Stanley Law Group blaming school officials for failing to put in place safeguards to prevent the boy, who they say was dressed in a skirt, from entering the girl’s bathroom to assault their daughter at Stone Bridge High School in Ashburn, Va., on May 28.

The statement accuses Loudoun County Schools officials and the Loudoun County Board of Education of failing to take steps to prevent the same 15-year-old boy from allegedly sexually assaulting another female student at Broad Run High School, also located in Ashburn, on Oct. 6 in a vacant classroom.

School officials acknowledge that the boy was transferred to the second school after law enforcement authorities released him from a juvenile detention facility following his arrest for the first case, in which the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office said he was charged with two counts of forceable sodomy against his female victim. 

“The sexual assault on our daughter and the subsequent sexual assault by the same individual were both predictable and preventable,” the parents’ statement says. “Subsequent to the sexual assault on our daughter, Loudoun County Public Schools formalized the policy regarding restroom use that was easily exploitable by a potential sexual assailant,” the statement continues. 

“Because of poor planning and misguided policies, Loudoun Schools failed to institute even minimal safeguards to protect students from sexual assaults,” says the statement.

Loudoun County Schools Superintendent Scott A. Ziegler apologized at an Oct. 15 news conference for what he acknowledged was the school systems’ mishandling of the two sexual assault cases. He noted that school officials should have publicly disclosed the two cases or at least alerted parents at the time they occurred. But he said a federal civil rights law known as Title IX that mandates how schools must respond to cases of sexual harassment appeared to prevent Loudoun school officials from initially disclosing the two cases of sexual assault until they were investigated by law enforcement authorities.

Ziegler said the school system was revamping its disciplinary procedures and its interaction with the Loudoun Sheriff’s Office to ensure that parents and students are alerted to potential danger similar to the cases where the 15-year-old boy allegedly assaulted the two female students.

Meanwhile, school officials and the LGBTQ advocacy group Equality Loudoun have pointed out that law enforcement officials have yet to confirm whether the 15-year-old boy charged in the two cases was actually dressed in women’s clothes during the first incident or whether he is trans or gender fluid.

Equality Loudoun’s president, Cris Candice Tuck, released a statement to the Washington Blade on Oct. 18 that she said was the first official known statement responding to the Loudoun school controversy from an LGBTQ organization.

“In light of the reporting of recent sexual assault allegations, the Board of Directors of Equality Loudoun wishes to extend our deepest sympathies to the victims of these heinous attacks and their families,” the statement says. “Equality Loudoun advocates for due process and justice for the victims regardless of whether the alleged perpetrator was a member of the LGBTQ+ community,” the statement continues. “Such actions have no place in our community, and Equality Loudoun does not condone any form of sexual violence, assault, or harassment,” it says.

“However, the accusations that the alleged perpetrator of these assaults is transgender or genderfluid have so far been unverified,” the Equality Loudoun statement asserts. “Attempts to shift blame of this incident to any individual, group, or policy – other than the alleged perpetrator – does a grave disservice to the victims of these crimes and already marginalized youth in our community.”

The statement adds, “We remind those advocating for change to the laws and policies that the initial assault predated any enactment of Policy 8040 by almost 4 months.”

The Equality Loudoun statement was referring to the fact that the Loudoun County School Board did not vote to approve the school system’s trans nondiscrimination policy until August of this year, more than three months after the first of the two sexual assault incidents occurred. 

The policy, among other things, allows transgender and genderfluid students to use the school bathrooms and locker rooms that match their gender identity. The policy also requires that teachers, school administrators and fellow students address a trans or genderfluid student by their chosen name and pronouns.

“Inadvertent slips in the use of names and pronouns may occur,” the policy states. “However, staff or students who intentionally and persistently refuse to respect a student’s gender identity by using the wrong name and gender pronoun are in violation of this policy,” it states.

The statement says that rumors of a bathroom “pilot” program that predated the official approval of Policy 8040 that would have allowed female trans or genderfluid students to use the girls’ bathrooms “are simply untrue” and were never put in place.

In a separate statement to the Blade, Equality Loudoun’s Cris Candice Tuck challenged claims by some parents and conservative political activists, some of whom are supporting Virginia’s GOP gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin over Democrat Terry McAulliffe, that the trans nondiscrimination policy is placing students at risk for sexual assault.

“The adoption of nondiscrimination policies are in no way endangering students,” Candice Tuck said. “Across the country, sexual assaults have occurred in schools for decades before any transgender inclusive policies were passed,” she said. “And in those counties and states where such protections have passed in recent years, there has been no verified incidence of anyone abusing such policies to commit such attacks in schools.”

Candice Tuck added, “The focus should be on improving systems of reporting, coordination, and investigation, protecting the victims of these attacks, and creating safer school environments by creating modernized areas and bathrooms that increase protection for all students, including LGBTQ+ students who are statistically more likely to be the victim of such a crime.”  

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