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Dallas police have arrested one of a group of men who brutally attacked a transgender woman in broad daylight last week. They’re investigating the attack as a possible hate crime.
In a three-minute bystander video posted to Facebook and YouTube, a slim black woman with pink hair is seen lying on the road, curled in the fetal position, while a group of men viciously punch and kick her.
Dallas Police Department said in a statement that the victim — identified in local media as 23-year-old Muhlaysia Booker — was involved in a minor traffic accident near an apartment complex in southern Dallas, and a verbal altercation ensued. In the video, Booker is seen arguing with a large group of onlookers. Then a group of men walk up to Booker. One man, dressed in all white, pushes her to the ground and starts beating her. Other men join in.
Then a group of about seven women push through the crowd, form a barrier around Booker, grab her arms and legs, and carry her limp body away. Dallas police said that witnesses took her to a nearby hospital, where she was treated for “serious bodily injuries.” According to WFAA, Booker suffered facial fractures and her right arm is in a sling.
At the hospital, Booker told police that her assailants used homophobic slurs. Dallas Police said that they were reviewing “all available evidence to determine if it will be classified as a hate crime.”
After canvassing the Dallas neighborhood where the attack took place for witnesses and suspects, police announced on Sunday that they’d arrested Edward Thomas, 29, on charges of aggravated assault causing serious bodily injury. Police did not say whether Thomas was the ringleader or one of the men who joined in on the attack.
Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings, a Democrat, said in a statement that he’d seen the video and was “extremely angry about what appears to be mob violence against this woman.” “Those who did this do not represent how Dallasites feel about our thriving LGBTQ community,” Rawlings wrote. “We will not stand for this kind of behavior.”
In an interview with a local CBS affiliate, Muhlaysia’s father, Pierre Booker, described the pain he experienced from watching the video of his daughter being beaten.
“I felt like I wanted to cry, but the tears just wouldn’t come out,” Peirre told CBSDFW. “I felt anger to the point where I wanted to go over there, but knowing my character, I didn’t.”
Whether Thomas will face hate crime charges also remains to be seen. Texas’ hate crime statute protects people’s sexual orientation but not their gender identity. Only eighteen states plus Washington D.C. have hate crime laws that specifically protect trans people. However, under the Matthew Shephard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, federal prosecutors can seek hate crime charges against individuals who target transgender individuals.
Hate crime law advocates say that black trans women in particular are especially vulnerable to harassment, discrimination and violence. According to the Human Rights Campaign, 82 percent of the 22 transgender people murdered in 2018 were women of color.
Cover: Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings, right, addresses the media during a news conference at city hall, Friday, July 8, 2016, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)