Metro Weekly

D.C. man to face vandalism charges for Casa Ruby incident

Andrew Cook has been ordered to stay away from the community center where he allegedly assaulted an employee

Photo: Ruby Corado, via Facebook.

A man accused of entering local community center Casa Ruby, assaulting a transgender employee, and throwing a brick through its front door on Sunday has been released on his own recognizance while he awaits trial.

On Monday evening, the Metropolitan Police Department arrested 20-year-old Andrew Cook, of Southeast D.C., on a charge of felony destruction of property, with total damages estimated at more than $1,000.

Initially, police had also planned to charge him with simple assault, and threatening to kidnap or injure a person, which are both misdemeanors.

On Tuesday, Cook appeared in D.C. Superior Court, charged with just the felony destruction of property charge, which is the most serious of the three charges. At his preliminary hearing, Superior Court Judge John C. Staples released Cook on his own recognizance, and ordered him to stay away from Casa Ruby, which works with vulnerable populations such as immigrants, LGBTQ youth, and transgender women of color, located at 2822 Georgia Ave. NW.

Cook is next scheduled to appear in court on Monday, April 3, for another preliminary hearing.

According to police reports, Cook entered Casa Ruby on March 12 and began arguing with a transgender employee, accusing her and others at the center of talking about him. Cook then approached the employee, hitting her in the forehead with his pointer finger and picking up a bar of soap and throwing it at her. She was not injured in the altercation.

Cook then left the center, only to return with a brick and throw it through the front door, breaking the glass. He also caused additional damage to the door frame by kicking it. As he was leaving, Cook reportedly said, “I’ll kill your motherfucking ass. Y’all tranny motherfuckers think somebody won’t fuck y’all up.”

Photo: Ruby Corado, via Facebook.

Based upon that statement in particular, and others made during the incident the Metropolitan Police Department began investigating the incident as a possible bias-related crime based on a person’s gender identity. If Cook were charged with bias enhancements and found guilty of the underlying charge, he could end up serving additional time on top of his original sentence.

Cook has not yet been charged with either simple assault or threatening to kidnap or injure a person, nor with bias enhancements. It is left up to the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the District of Columbia to decide whether to add the additional misdemeanor charges before Cook’s next hearing, and whether to pursue bias enhancements. However, historically, the office has shied away from pursuing bias enhancements — which are harder to prove — except in those cases where there is overwhelming evidence that the person was motivated by their own prejudices to commit the crime.

Ruby Corado, the executive director and founder of Casa Ruby, says she had seen Cook before at the center, where he had attempted to hit on some of the trans women at the center. But she says that just because he expressed interest in some transgender women doesn’t mean he is incapable of committing a bias-motivated crime.

“Someone told me, ‘Oh, he’s a transgender lover,'” Corado says. “And I was like, ‘No, baby. He’s not a transgender lover. If he was a transgender lover, he’d take you to dinner, he’d buy you some flowers. He would put a ring on your finger. He would take you out in public.’ Why does he have to come and prey on people in a transgender space?”

Corado also says some of the justifications used to avoid pursuing bias enhancements are “pathetic” and a form of “denial” that sends a message to others that they can commit crimes against the LGBTQ community and will not be severely punished for it.

Photo: Ruby Corado, via Facebook.

“I advise the U.S. Attorney’s Office to take a sensitivity training, and find out what bias is,” Corado says. “Maybe they need to have a room full of trans people and gay people who have been assaulted, lesbians who have been raped, and find out what bias is. Just because you lie to me and tell me I’m pretty, and then murder me, that doesn’t make you any less of a hater.

“These officials, the public servants, need to be honest with our community. Don’t come to our spaces and tell us you’re going to resolve our issues, and then you question the validity of the crimes committed against us. It’s all about denial. Because as soon as they acknowledge that there’s a problem, they have to put the resources in place.”

The charges against Cook come just days after city officials, flanked by Mayor Muriel Bowser and Interim MPD Police Chief Peter Newsham, held a media event to announce that the total number of bias-related crimes in Washington, D.C. had risen since 2015. According to the city officials, all bias-related crimes committed in the city, 55 percent were motivated by the victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

Corado adds this is the third such incident where transgender women and LGBTQ youth at Casa Ruby have been targeted by outsiders. The two prior incidents involved a second man, who began making sexual advances to some of the youth at the center. When they did not respond, he punched a hole in the wall. Corado notes that he was arrested, but later released, only to come back and punch another hole in the wall — something that infuriates Corado.

“We’ve gone through this violence, year after year after year, the same thing,” Corado says. “This time, I have cameras [in Casa Ruby], and people get to see what this violence looks like. It’s important for people to see, because they hear about LGBT people being beaten and murdered, but they don’t know what it looks like. I put all the information out there, so people can see, this is what happens, this is how it begins. This is how people escalate their violence from online hate to actually visiting our facilities.”

That said, Corado says the D.C. community has been extremely supportive in the wake of the incident. David Perruzza, the manager of JR.’s Bar & Grill, started a GoFundMe page on Tuesday to help raise funds for repairs, which are estimated to cost at least $2,000. So far, the site has raised $8,525 for Casa Ruby.

Corado also says the Women’s Foundation has promised to give the center a $2,500 grant, Ledo Pizza has donated free pizza to those at the center, and representatives from Mosaic Theater Company stopped by with candy for the youth at the center.

“It’s the little things. The outpouring of support has been incredible,” Corado says of the kindness and generosity that people have shown her since the incident. “There’s a lot of emotional support out there. It’s been overwhelming.”

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