Charleston police on Tuesday night arrested a man who they said attacked a transgender woman in the city’s bar and restaurant district, a crime that authorities classified as bias-motivated.
And on the same evening, members of the LGBTQ community told police that they too have feared for their safety and have been accosted on the city’s streets.
The Alliance For Full Acceptance, an advocacy group, partnered with the Charleston Police Department to host a town hall discussion to encourage people to voice their concerns after the Aug. 19 attack on Ann Street.
A 34-year-old Goose Creek woman was leaving King Street bars around 2 a.m. when a man kicked her sister in the stomach near an elevator of the Charleston Visitor Center parking garage, police said. When the woman came to her sister’s aid, the attacker then punched her in the head, knocking her out. The man used slurs about the woman’s gender identity before punching her, investigators said.
The victim was hospitalized, but she is recovering.
Officers have arrested 30-year-old Christopher Lamar Price in connection with the attack. He faces a charge of second-degree assault and battery, according to jail records. Police initially denied that the attack was a potential hate crime but later corrected the statement while social media posts circulated.
On Tuesday, a diverse crowd filled a room at the Arthur W. Christopher Community Center and addressed a panel that included Police Chief Luther Reynolds, Deputy Chief Naomi Broughton, two officers and several LGBTQ advocates.
Reynolds brought up the “offensive” wording of a statement that his department initially issued about the Ann Street assault, which had said the victim “wasn’t assaulted because she’s a transgender.” The chief encouraged members of the crowd to speak their minds and said that “a level of humility” is necessary for the department to improve.
“In my mind, there should be no space between us. Zero,” he said. “We should be in this together. I know that’s not where we’re at today, but that’s where we need to be.”
The agency plans to train patrol officers and investigators on how to treat LGBTQ victims, suspects and fellow employees. Part of that conversation will center around pronoun use and how to respond to transgender individuals.
One man in the crowd told the panel that Charleston officers have assumed he is a woman and called him the name he was assigned at birth, even after he had corrected them.
“I hate hearing that my co-workers and fellow officers don’t call you by the right pronoun or the right name after you’ve repeatedly told them, or they’re condescending,” said Officer Jessica Hans, a member of the LGBTQ community who along with another officer spoke of the need for better education. “We are trying to change that, but we can’t do it without y’all.”
Vanity Reid Deterville, a 24-year-old College of Charleston student, pushed back against the Police Department for initially making a definitive statement that the Ann Street assault wasn’t bias-motivated as opposed to saying that aspect of the crime remained under investigation.
“It was like a slap in the face to me because I knew as a transgender woman that that was the exact reason she was attacked,” she said after the forum.
Reid Deterville said she has endured catcalls and hostility on campus and downtown. She said she’s suffered two assaults, one of which she didn’t report to police out of fear of not being taken seriously by authorities.
But on Tuesday, Reid Deterville said she walked away feeling heard by police after a conversation that she said “scratched a little deeper than surface level.”
“We still have a long way to go when it comes to eradicating this issue,” she said.