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Woman charged in IHOP shooting rejects plea bargain offer

Defendant captured on video shooting gay man in restaurant; case sent to grand jury

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IHOP, gay news, Washington Blade

IHOP, gay news, Washington Blade

The International House of Pancakes restaurant in Columbia Heights (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

A woman charged with shooting a gay man inside an International House of Pancakes restaurant in the city’s Columbia Heights section in March rejected a plea bargain deal from prosecutions on Tuesday during a court status hearing.

The government’s offer called for keeping in place the charge of aggravated assault while armed filed against Lashawn Yvonne Carson, 27, at the time of her arrest. However, the offer included a recommendation that she be sentenced to seven years in jail for an offense that carries a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison and a possible fine of $10,000.

D.C. Superior Court Judge J. Michael Ryan, who presided over the hearing, said the case would be sent to a grand jury, which observers said could indict Carson on the aggravated assault while armed charge as well as other charges, including a more severe charge of assault with intent to kill and the listing of the case as a hate crime.

D.C. police initially classified the case as an anti-gay hate crime. The U.S. Attorney’s office dropped the hate crime designation when it filed the case in court. A spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s office said its prosecutors normally hold off on deciding whether to list cases as hate crimes until they are presented before a grand jury.

According to accounts by police and witnesses, Carson allegedly shot the victim in the abdomen about 6:30 a.m. on March 11 near the lobby of the IHOP restaurant after an off-duty D.C. police officer broke up a physical altercation between Carson and several of her friends and the victim and at least two of his friends.

A police arrest affidavit says the altercation began after people sitting with Carson at the restaurant made anti-gay remarks toward the victim and people sitting with him.

The affidavit says video footage taken by a surveillance camera at the IHOP shows Carson walking up to the victim after the police officer stopped the two parties from fighting. The affidavit says the video shows Carson firing a single shot that struck the victim, who is shown clutching his abdomen and falling to the floor.

The victim recovered from what police said was a serious but non-life threatening wound to his liver. Carson was initially held without bond. On May 3, another judge agreed to release her to home confinement, with the requirement that she wear an electronic ankle bracelet.

Carson wore the ankle bracelet in court on Tuesday. Her attorney, Patrick Christmas, told the court that Carson, who is pregnant, has complied with all requirements of the home release order issued on May 3 by Judge Magistrate Frederick Sullivan.

William Miller, a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s office, said that while the maximum sentence for aggravated assault while armed is 30 years in prison, the court’s guidelines for such a charge range from a four to ten year prison term depending on the circumstances of individual cases.

Gay D.C. attorney Dale Edwin Sanders, who practices criminal law in D.C. and Virginia, called the seven-year sentence offered by the government “a real good offer” given the fact that Carson’s action was captured on video.

“I would take that in a heartbeat,” he said.

Christmas, Carson’s attorney, couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

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Chaos erupts at Loudoun County school board meeting over trans students rights proposal

Two people arrested, two others injured

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(Screen capture from Loudoun County Public Schools public domain)

The Loudoun County School Board abruptly ended its meeting Tuesday as chaos erupted after parents who were against the school district’s implementation of Policy 8040 failed to observe rules regarding disruptions and decorum.

Loudoun Now reports Vice Chair Atoosa Reaser made the motion to curtail public comment about an hour after that portion of the meeting began. A brawl then broke out between members of the public, and Loudoun County Sheriff’s Department deputies were called to clear the room. 

Two people were arrested, and two people also suffered minor injuries. The names of those who were taken into custody and injured have not been made public.

The school board resumed its meeting at 6:30 p.m. after it ended the public comment session and deputies cleared the room. The school board entered into closed session to meet with legal counsel and discuss negotiations involving a bid award.

In light of the events that transpired at the school board meeting, a group of LGBTQ groups in neighboring Fairfax County in a statement called upon prominent community members to condemn the anti-transgender hate in Loudoun County.

“A coalition of organizations based in Northern Virginia is calling on local officials … to condemn the rise of anti-LGBTQIA+ hate, in particular animosity towards transgender and gender-expansive students, on display in Loudoun County,” reads the statement 

“In addition, the coalition is asking for the denouncement of support for this hate from other local groups, including the Fairfax County Republican Committee, the Family Foundation of Virginia and the Family Research Council,” it adds. “Finally, the members of these organizations are requesting visible displays of support for LGBTQIA+ students, particularly trans and gender-expansive students, in both words and deeds.”

More than 300 people attended the school board meeting, with many of them opposing Policy 8040 which would allow transgender students to use their preferred name and pronouns regardless of the name and gender in their permanent education record. The proposed policy would also not require them to provide any substantiating evidence.

Parents also expressed their support for Policy 8040 during the public comment session.

They spoke in favor of inclusivity and equality in the Loudoun County School District.

Parents who were against the policy cited the need to respect biology and privacy as their arguments. In addition, some speakers, including former state Sen. Dick Black expressed anger at the previous school year’s events such as the suspension of physical education teacher Tanner Cross after he refused to refer to trans students using their preferred pronouns.  

“The crowd repeatedly cheered public speakers who lashed out at school board members and denounced the plan that would provide bathroom and locker room access based on a student’s gender identity,” WTOP News reports.

Only 51 of the 249 speakers who had signed up for public comment ended up speaking before Reaser’s motion was passed.

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Pride flags vandalized, stolen in Loudoun County town

‘Bigoted efforts to terrorize members of our community will not stand’

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Vandals destroyed or stole several Pride flags that had been displayed at homes in Lovettsville, Va. (Screen capture via WUSA9))

Vandals this week destroyed or stole Pride flags that Lovettsville residents had displayed on their homes.

Calvin Woehrie told WUSA the vandals used a blade to slash the Pride flag that was hanging from his house. The D.C. television station reported the vandals also targeted Woehrie’s neighbors who are a lesbian couple with four children.

The Loudoun County’s Sheriff’s Office said the vandals damaged five Pride flags from three homes and they stole two more. A spokesperson for the Loudoun County’s Sheriff’s Office told WUSA the vandalism is being investigated as a possible hate crime.

“I wanted to address events that happened over the weekend, that are deplorable and devastating to the entire community,” said Lovettsville Mayor Nate Fontaine in a letter he sent to town residents on June 16. “Over the weekend, there was destruction of property that specifically targeted our LGBTQ community. To make this even more heinous is that the destruction of property was done during Pride Month. To have property destroyed targeting members of our community is horrible and can be frightening for those targeted.” 

“For the individuals who committed these crimes, know that your bigoted efforts to terrorize members of our community will not stand,” added Fontaine. “We are working closely with the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office and this has also been added as an agenda item for our June 24th Council meeting.”

Glenn Youngkin, the Republican nominee to succeed Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, on Saturday described the vandalism as “absolutely unacceptable.”

“Whether someone is voicing an opinion or flying a flag, as Virginians — and as human beings — we must be respectful of one another,” wrote Youngkin in a Facebook post.

“Politicians always seem to be pitting neighbor against neighbor, but I am committed to bringing people together around our shared values, like treating others the same way you want to be treated,” he added. “We must all do better by respecting others’ right to live their lives freely, without being targeted because of who they are.”

WUSA reported Lovettsville residents bought Pride flags to replace the ones that had been vandalized and stolen.

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Transgender man murdered in Va.

EJ Boykin was shot outside Lynchburg store on June 14

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EJ Boykin (Photo courtesy of Facebook)

A transgender man was murdered in Lynchburg, Va., on June 14.

The News and Advance, a local newspaper, reported EJ Boykin, who was also known as Novaa Watson, was shot outside a Family Dollar store on the city’s Fort Avenue at around 6 p.m. Boykin passed away at Lynchburg General Hospital a short time later.

A spokesperson for the Lynchburg Police Department told the News and Advance the shooting may have been the result of a domestic dispute. Authorities added there is no evidence to currently suggest the shooting was a hate crime based on Boykin’s gender identity.

Pittsburgh Lesbian Correspondents reported Boykin was born and raised in Baltimore and was a student at Morgan State University. The blog said Boykin celebrated his 23rd Birthday on June 10, four days before his murder.

Tori Cooper, the director of community engagement for the Human Rights Campaign’s Transgender Justice Initiative, in a statement notes Boykin is the fifth trans man reported killed in 2021. HRC notes at least 29 trans or gender non-conforming people are known to have been murdered so far this year.

“The level of fatal violence we’ve recorded this year is higher than we’ve ever seen,” said Cooper. “All of these individuals deserved to live. We must strike at the roots of racism and transphobia, and continue to work toward justice and equality for trans and gender non-conforming people.”

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