A D.C. Superior Court judge on Tuesday released a 20-year-old man from jail pending trial and ordered him to stay away from the LGBT community center Casa Ruby following his arrest one day earlier for allegedly smashing the center’s front door and assaulting and threatening a transgender employee.
D.C. police on Monday charged Andrew J. Cook of Southeast Washington with destruction of property, simple assault, and making threats to do bodily harm in connection with an incident on Sunday afternoon, March 12, at the Casa Ruby offices at 2822 Georgia Ave., N.W.
A police arrest affidavit says Cook told a transgender woman he allegedly assaulted during the incident, “I’ll kill your mother fucking ass! Y’all tranny mother fuckers think somebody won’t fuck y’all up!”
Casa Ruby founder and executive director Ruby Corado told the Washington Blade Cook had been an occasional visitor to Casa Ruby over the past several weeks and was known to employees and some clients. Corado said Cook identified as being straight and had expressed interest in meeting transgender women who go to Casa Ruby for various services.
“By law we cannot tell non-LGBT people not to come in,” Corado said.
Corado said witnesses told her Cook became violent during the March 12 incident when he was asked to leave because he was bothering people there.
Acting D.C. Police Lt. Brett Parson, who oversees the police LGBT Liaison Unit, said officers investigating the case flagged it as a possible anti-transgender hate crime.
But during a presentment hearing in Superior Court on Tuesday, March 14, prosecutors with the U.S. Attorney’s office did not list the incident as a hate crime and filed just one of the three police charges against Cook – felony destruction of property.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jelahn Stewart, a spokesperson for the office, said prosecutors routinely file the most serious charge against a defendant in a case like this when it first comes to court. She said additional charges could be filed later, including a possible designation as a hate crime, when the case goes before a grand jury for an indictment.
Stewart noted that the felony destruction of property charge was more serious than the charges of simple assault and making threats to do bodily harm, which are misdemeanors.
During the March 14 hearing Judge Sean Staples agreed to a defense request that Cook be released on his own recognizance on the condition that he stays away from the block on which Casa Ruby is located and from all Casa Ruby employees and clients. Cook had been held overnight in jail following his arrest on Monday.
The judge also ordered Cook to return to court on April 3 for a preliminary hearing, where prosecutors are required to present evidence showing probable cause exists that Cook committed the offense with which he is charged.
The police arrest affidavit says the trans woman who was assaulted, who is identified as Victim 1, told police Cook became angry because he believed the women and others at Casa Ruby had been “talking about him.”
It says that’s when he shouted anti-transgender names and made threats against those present in the room where the altercation unfolded.
“Victim 1 states the altercation became physical when Suspect 1 [Cook] approached her and hit her in the head with his index finger,” the affidavit says. “Suspect 1 then walked away from Victim 1, grabbed a bar of soap from a table and threw it at Victim 1, hitting her right shoulder. No injury resulted.”
According to the affidavit, Cook then exited the building, and a witness to the incident immediately locked the door. Another witness quoted Cook saying as he walked out of Casa Ruby, “I’ll fuck this place up! I’ll make sure none of y’all have a place to go!”
Minutes later Cook returned and kicked the door frame, causing damage, the affidavit says. It says he then grabbed a brick and threw it at the double pane glass door, shattering the exterior layer of glass.
“Suspect 1 picked up the brick and threw it again, shattering the inner layer of glass and causing glass to fly into the location where Victim 1 and the witnesses were located,” it says.
The affidavit says Casa Ruby informed police the damage Cook caused to the door and doorframe would cost $1,800 to repair.
The manager of the D.C. gay bar JR.’s, David Perruzza announced on Facebook on Tuesday that JR.’s would host a fundraiser for Casa Ruby on Thursday night, March 23, “to help raise enough money to make sure they have a proper security door so this never happens again.”
The announcement also included a link to a GoFundMe site, which, according to the site, had raised $7,343 for Casa Ruby from 123 people in the first 20 hours it had been posted.
Corado expressed appreciation on her own Facebook page for the support Casa Ruby has received since news of the attack by Cook surfaced earlier this week. Among other things, Casa Ruby operates an emergency shelter for homeless LGBT youth and adults and provides various services to LGBT people, including immigrants.
She said the attack on the center by Cook temporarily shattered her longstanding efforts to make Casa Ruby a “safe space” for vulnerable members of the LGBT community, especially transgender women of color.