A 15-year-old transgender girl was stabbed in the back by a male attacker on board a Green Line Metrorail train about 4:40 p.m. on Wednesday shortly before the train arrived at the Fort Totten Station in Northeast D.C., according to a statement released by Metro.
The statement says the victim, a D.C. resident, was being treated at a hospital for a non-life threatening puncture wound.
Metro spokesperson Dan Stessel told the Washington Blade that Metro Police arrested a suspect in the case on the Fort Totten Station platform as he attempted to flee the scene.
The Metro statement identifies the suspect as Reginald Anthony Klaiber, 24, of Greenbelt, Md. It says police charged him with assault with a deadly weapon – a knife. The statement says the charge is classified as a bias related crime, which could result in an enhanced jail sentence under the D.C. hate crimes law.
“Witnesses told Transit Police detectives the suspect made bias-motivated remarks about the victim’s transgender status immediately prior to the assault,” the Metro statement says.
Jae-la White, 19, one of two friends accompanying the victim on the train at the time of the stabbing, told the Blade in a telephone interview that the attacker approached the victim and began making disparaging remarks about her appearance shortly after he boarded the train at the West Hyattsville Station.
“He came to my friend and said you have red hair,” White said. “My friend said ok, and then he said, ‘Oh, you’re a man!’”
“Then he started bothering my friend,” said White. “My friend got up out of her seat to go by the door while the train was moving and told him to please leave her alone. He faced her and said I will stab you up and blow your brains out.”
In a harrowing account of what followed, White said the attacker next “started to hug” the victim in a sexually suggestive way. Seconds later, White said, the victim began to scream and White and their other friend, a 17-year-old man, realized that the attacker was stabbing their friend.
According to White, the 17-year-old friend pulled out a canister of mace and squirted the attacker in the face, enabling the victim to break free.
“He started holding his face. We all started running for our life, running through the car doors to the last car,” said White. “The man was following behind us but he fell back in the second to the last car and he was just watching us.”
In the midst of the commotion and in a panic, White said she frantically pushed the emergency call button in one of the train cars and screamed for help.
Stessel said transit police were alerted by the train operator, resulting in a 4:38 p.m. call for police to come to the Fort Totten station.
As White tells it, the unfolding ordeal for the three friends didn’t end when the train stopped at the station.
“He then started chasing us with the knife upstairs and through the station,” White told the Blade, adding that to her horror, there were no transit police to be found. After the police finally arrived, in what she said seemed like an eternity, it took four officers to subdue and handcuff the suspect.
Stessel said police records show that the first officer arrived on the scene at 4:41 p.m., noting that a Transit Police substation is located next to Fort Totten Station.
“I will say that the witnesses in this case did everything right,” Stessel said. “They pressed the emergency intercom to notify the train operator, they provided a good description of the suspect, and they remained on scene to talk to detectives.”
Klaiber was expected to appear before a D.C. Superior Court judge on Thursday, where a decision would be made on whether he should be held or released on bond while awaiting trial.
Channel 4 reported that Klaiber has a lengthy criminal record in Maryland. The D.C. Superior Court’s online records show Klaiber pleaded guilty to July 2013 felony robbery charge and pleaded guilty to a July 2013 misdemeanor charge of threats to do bodily harm.