D.C. officers failed to report alleged hate crime attack; chief 'appalled'

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Local,Crime,Scott McCabe
Five young women say they were violently attacked for their sexual orientation in Columbia Heights, but D.C. police let the suspects get away and failed to report the alleged hate crime.

D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier said she was stunned by the revelation, and she has ordered an investigation into the actions of the officers.

"I was appalled when I heard about the incident and the conduct of the officers," Lanier said in a statement to The Washington Examiner. "I have spoken with victims in this case and I want to assure them and the public that the incident and the conduct of the officers are being investigated thoroughly."

Police broke up the assault on July 30 and apprehended one man at the scene, but the officers released him and told the women to go home, said one of the victims, a 20-year-old community college student who asked to not be identified.

The women -- ages 20 to 24 -- suffered bruises to their faces, head and bodies, police said. The Examiner was shown a picture of one woman with a black eye.

"You only read about this stuff in the newspaper or see it on TV," the student said. "To see it first-hand, it was horrible. Where is the justice?"

Lanier said she learned of the incident several days after the mother of one of the women contacted the D.C. police Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit.

The incident came less than a month after the police chief met with D.C.'s gay and lesbian leaders over complaints that officers were reluctant to file hate-based crime incident reports, as is required by department policy when a hate crime is alleged.

Lanier was scheduled to meet with the group again Friday. Lanier said she was confident the police would arrest the young men involved in the attack.

The July 30 encounter started innocently.

The young women were trying to find a place to eat in Columbia Heights when at least two men approached them on the sidewalk and started flirting, they said.

The woman told them they weren't interested, but the men persisted, they said.

"We were trying to be cool about the situation," one woman told The Examiner.

One female pointed out that she was with her girlfriend, and one of the men became enraged.

"You dyke b-----s, I will take that dyke b---- into the alley and kick her ass," the man said, according to a police report.

He punched the girlfriend in the left eye and she staggered back, the report said. Then he punched her twice more.

When the other women tried to intervene, the men struck them too, the report said.

One of the men fled, but police caught the other. After five minutes, the police said they didn't want to hear the women's story and told them to go home, the women said.

smccabe@washingtonexaminer.com

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