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Three people have been arrested and charged with attacking a transgender woman at a Northeast D.C. laundromat, punching her repeatedly in the face and even stabbing her in the head with a large pocketknife.
Asia Whitehead, 28, Rhonda Whitehead, 27, and Melvin Taylor, 29, all residents of Northeast D.C., face charges of assault with a dangerous weapon for the attack.
Police are still considering charging the trio with a hate crime, given that the victim told them that her attackers hurled anti-LGBTQ slurs at the victim during the attack. If prosecutors choose to pursue such bias enhancements, the trio could face harsher penalties or additional jail time.
The incident, which took place at the Capital Laundry Mat on Benning Road NE, and was caught on tape by surveillance video, started as a disagreement over a washing machine and quickly escalated, reports CBS affiliate WUSA9.
The victim, 31-year-old Nysia Armstead, was transported to a local hospital and treated for non-life-threatening injuries before ultimately being released a few days later.
Video shows Armstead confront one of the women, who appears to be removing clothes from a machine. A back-and-forth verbal altercation ensues, at which point all three attack her, punching her repeatedly and stabbing her. She is seen on video retreating to a corner of the laundromat, grabbing her head, and leaving a trail of blood on the floor.
“I got stabbed in my head and my arm with a big old knife and I’ve got 37 stitches in my right arm, and 18 staples that were put in my head,” Armstead said. “They just called me all kinds of f—–” and “bitch” and stuff. ‘Oh this bitch, won’t use this washing machine.”
Armstead says she feels paralyzed with fear and she feels very vulnerable. She also worries about retribution if the three — or any associates of theirs — come after her in the future.
“I feel really really bad,” she said in an interview. “It’s like every day I’m looking at it that my life is almost been taken away.
“I don’t even want to go outside…I’m depressed,” she said. “Like really mentally stressed and depressed…. Anytime I breathe, it hurts.”
The Human Rights Campaign and other LGBTQ advocacy groups have noted that transgender women, particularly Black and Latina trans women, face higher risk of physical violence. Thus far, at least 28 transgender or gender-nonconforming people in the United States — the overwhelming majority who are women of color — have been murdered this year, putting 2021 on pace to break last year’s record of 44 deaths, which was the worst year on record since HRC began tracking statistics in 2013.
According to the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey, nearly one in 10 Black trans respondents were physically attacked in the year prior due to their gender identity, with 14% of Black trans women saying they’d been physically attacked.
Statistics from the Metropolitan Police Department show there were 87 incidents where a person was attacked because of their sexual orientation or gender identity in 2019. That number fell to 65 in 2020, but some of that decline might be attributed to more people staying inside and social distancing due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, many violent attacks against members of the LGBTQ community go unreported.
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