Mayor Vincent Gray (D) and Metropolitan Police Department Chief Cathy Lanier held a press briefing Monday, March 26, to announce the arrest of a suspect in a recent shooting at an IHOP Restaurant in D.C's Columbia Heights neighborhood.
The incident, which occurred at around 6:30 a.m., Sunday, March 11, in the restaurant at 3100 14th St. NW, was one of several recent crimes or attempted crimes that appeared to target members of Washington's LGBT community. When police responded to the scene, they found one victim suffering from a gunshot wound. The victim was transported to Washington MedStar Hospital and treated for injuries to the abdomen and liver.
IHOP in Columbia Heights
(Photo by JD Uy)
Today Lanier told reporters that the MPD has arrested LaShawn Carson, 27, a woman living in the District, for the shooting. Carson has been charged with aggravated assault while armed.
Lanier told reporters that the possibility of seeking an enhanced penalty related to bias motivation in the crime would be determined later.
Lanier said the MPD had ''worked around the clock'' and expended a ''tremendous'' amount of effort into solving the case. She also thanked the community for its patience.
''I tried to reassure the community when this crime first happened, and [in] giving my daily briefings, that we were working diligently on bringing the person responsible to closure,'' Lanier said in reference to members of the LGBT community who, following the shooting, had questioned the MPD's commitment to solving the case.
''I just want to reiterate that it's often difficult,'' Lanier continued. ''Many times we have a good idea in the very beginning of who a suspect is. But before we can bring charges – if we're going to bring charges that are appropriate and will carry us through court – we have to do some work upfront. … I think this should help the members of our community realize we work hard to close cases, regardless of who our victim is, and we will continue to do so.''
Lanier and Gray, appearing with several high-ranking members of the MPD, Councilmember Jim Graham (D-Ward 1) and Deputy Mayor for Public Safety and Justice Paul Quander, told reporters that all residents have a right to walk the streets of the city without fear of being targeted for their race, ethnic background, religion, sexual orientation or any other perceived characteristics.
''We will not tolerate this kind of dastardly violence against our LGBT residents, or any other group in the District of Columbia, or any other person in the District of Columbia,'' Gray said.
Pressed by reporters, Lanier and Commander George Kucik of the MPD's Criminal Investigation Division refused to reveal details of the investigation, the suspect or the extent of the victim's injuries. They warned that revealing such information could jeopardize the case when it reaches the courts.
In response to several questions of whether the victim was a gay male or a transgender woman, Lanier said the MPD was not going to disclose that out of respect for the victim's privacy. She also said such a classification could just be based on perception, and not how the victim personally identifies.
Kucik told reporters that the MPD has ''no reason to believe'' that the IHOP shooting is related to other crimes against LGBT people, such as a March 12 robbery and beating of a gay man in the city's Park View neighborhood, or the March 12 assault of a transgender woman in the city's Trinidad neighborhood. Kucik would not say if anyone else would be charged in the shooting.
''What a relief this is,'' Graham said of Carson's arrest. ''It's a relief because this was a horrendous hate crime that singled out somebody on the basis of a perception that they belonged to a particular group. But, in addition, this was an insane crime. The people who were having breakfast at IHOP at 6 a.m. or so, the last thing in the world one would ever expect would be to have someone shot for brushing up against another person.''
According to police reports of the crime, a group of three suspects repeatedly harassed the victim, who is listed as male, and his companions with homophobic slurs, before one suspect began fighting with the victim. As the two exchanged punches, a scuffle with the other suspects ensued.
According to Graham, an off-duty MPD detective was eating at IHOP at the time and separated the two ''when the sound of a gunshot occurred.'' The three suspects fled the scene, traveling eastbound along Irving Street NW.