Metro Weekly

Maryland man faces hate crime charges for attacking two transgender people

Suspect allegedly threatened to cut off victims' genitalia if they didn't leave the area

Gov. Ritchie Highway in Anne Arundel County – Photo: Famartin, via Wikimedia.

A Maryland man has been charged with hate crimes for allegedly attacking two transgender people in a parking lot.

Anne Arundel Police Department officers arrested Austin Keith Johnson, 51, on Tuesday after they said he wielded a pocket knife at two people walking near a strip mall off Ritchie Highway in Brooklyn, Md, reports The Capital Gazette.

Johnson has since been charged with assaulting two people on the basis of their gender identity, as well as two counts of first-degree assault, second-degree assault, and reckless endangerment.

The two victims approached Officer Rachel Daniel in her marked car just before 11 a.m. Tuesday, saying they’d been attacked moments earlier. They claimed Johnson threatened to harm them if they didn’t leave the area, according to charging documents.

The victims said they were walking away from Johnson when he came running from behind, yelling that he was going to cut off their genitalia if they didn’t leave.

According to charging documents, Johnson also threatened to cut them with the knife and repeatedly called them “he/she’s.”

One of the victims said Johnson then began swinging around the knife. That person threw a shopping cart toward Johnson to deter him, but the cart did not hit Johnson. Eventually, he walked away after the victims told him to get away, the officer wrote in the report.

Johnson has denied opening the blade of the knife, but an eyewitness confirmed the victims’ account, the Gazette reports. 

Johnson is on probation for an unrelated charge and has a history of misdemeanor charges against him, including disorderly conduct, public intoxication, and theft, according to public court records. He is currently being held without bond.

Police say the incident on Tuesday is the second assault on a transgender person in Anne Arundel County this year. Earlier this month, police were called after a man threatened a transgender man with whom he had been romantically involved prior to his transition.

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