August 14, 2014 at 10:11 am EDT | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Safeway assault case still open
Safeway, gay news, Washington Blade

This unidentified female suspect remains at large after allegedly assaulting a gay man at a Safeway.

An unidentified female suspect captured on video assaulting a gay man at a Safeway store at 5th and L Streets, N.W., on July 2 while calling him “faggot” remains at large more than a month after the incident sparked widespread interest on social media.

“This case is still open and under investigation,” said D.C. police spokesperson Gwendolyn Crump. “No arrest at this time.”

The victim of the alleged assault, local Realtor Mark Rutstein, 40, told the Blade at the time of the incident that the suspect began punching him in the face and calling him a faggot seconds after he approached her at a customer service counter and politely asked her if she was standing in line.

In attempting to defend himself Rutstein said he pulled the woman to the floor by her hair and held her down while screaming for security to help him. He said he released the woman when security guards and an assistant manager arrived.

But to his dismay and over his objections, the guards and the assistant manager escorted the woman to the door and allowed her to flee, according to Rutstein. He said the manager then refused his request to call police, telling him a police station was located across the street and he should go there if he wanted police assistance.

Rutstein said he flagged down a police car outside the store, resulting in four officers arriving at the store to take a police report. Two were from the department’s Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit.

While there, the officers obtained an electronic copy of video footage of the alleged assault from the store’s security camera system. Police later released photos taken from the video and appealed to the public for help in identifying the suspect.

In response to criticism over the decision by Safeway employees to allow the suspect to escape, a Safeway spokesperson said the guards missed seeing how the incident started and assumed it was a fight between two customers.

“We have apologized to the customer and are conducting our own investigation as well as continue to cooperate with law enforcement on their investigation,” Safeway spokesperson Craig Muckle said in a July 9 statement.

Police listed the incident as an anti-gay hate crime.

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

© Copyright Brown, Naff, Pitts Omnimedia, Inc. 2018. All rights reserved.
Blade Blast

Get the latest LGBTQ news to your inbox every Thursday!