The Metropolitan Police Department has announced the arrest of a suspect accused of assaulting and robbing transgender women in Northwest D.C.
On Wednesday, Sept. 25, police charged 23-year-old Besufikad Beshanu Tujuba, of Northwest D.C., with robbery (force and violence) and simple assault.
The attack in question occurred at 9:24 a.m. on Sept. 17, in the 7700 block of Eastern Avenue NW, in D.C.’s Takoma neighborhood, when a man allegedly approached two women near a rear parking lot of an apartment building.
He punched one of the women in her face and kicked her in the back while grabbing her book bag. He also attempted to grab the second woman’s purse, but was unsuccessful.
The suspect then ran to a nearby corner, emptied out the first woman’s book bag onto the ground, grabbed a red purse inside it, and stole several items, including $40 in cash and a cell phone, before fleeing the scene.
The first victim refused medical treatment, but told police she believes the attack was a hate crime motivated by her gender identity, because during the robbery, the suspect made a cutting gesture, drawing his hand going across his throat while telling her, “I am going to kill you,” and “I hate transgender female.”
Unfortunately, for the second victim, it was not her first run-in with the suspect. Just a day prior, she had been walking with another woman in 7600 block of Georgia Avenue NW, also in the Takoma neighborhood, around 11 a.m. when the same man approached her.
The victim greeted the suspect in Spanish, saying “Hola.” He responded, “Hola, bitch,” and punched her, once in her face and twice in her shoulder, before walking away.
The police report for that incident says the man once again used language towards the victim that indicates a potential bias towards the victim’s gender identity or expression.
Both incidents are being investigated as bias-motivated crimes, though it remains to be seen whether bias enhancements will be pursued should the case be prosecuted.
Police subsequently released video surveillance footage from a local store declaring the suspect a “person of interest” and asking for the public’s help in identifying him.