D.C. police are investigating whether two recent attacks on transgender people within a block of each other in Northeast Washington were motivated by hate, police said Tuesday.
The attacks — the first of which was fatal — are not yet classified as hate crimes, but police said they are trying to determine whether the sexual identities of the victims played a role.
“I’m very disturbed to learn that a second transgender victim in as many weeks has been targeted with gun violence on a stretch of Dix Street” in Northeast, Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) said. “In the wake of the first incident, I expressed concern about the possibility of it being a hate crime. This second incident increases that concern.”
About 2:45 a.m. Sunday, a man approached a transgender person in the 6200 block of Dix Street and asked for change, police said.
Without waiting for an answer, the man pulled a semiautomatic handgun and shot at the person. The victim was not hit, police said.
Police said Tuesday that the attack may be linked to the June 20 death of a 23-year-old transgender person in the same area.
Myles Mclean, who was also known to friends as Lashay Mclean, was fatally shot about 4:30 a.m. in the 6110 block of Dix Street.
Two men walked up to Mclean, and one asked a question, police said. Just as in Sunday’s attack, a man pulled a semiautomatic handgun before waiting for an answer, police said. Mclean was fatally shot.
The two assailants in Mclean’s death are described as in their late teens to early 20s. The shooter is about 5-foot-6 and weighs about 180 pounds, police said.
Police are investigating the attacks as a “potential emerging pattern,” given the nature and location of the crimes, said Officer Tisha Gant, a D.C. police spokeswoman.
The department’s Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit will be working with members of the transgender community and others to raise awareness, police said.
Earline Budd, a transgender-rights advocate and founder of the Transgender Health Empowerment, said the attacks have the community “up in arms.”
“We say that the crime rate is down, but there is constant violence that goes unreported,” Budd said. “Many of the transgender folks who come here say they don’t feel comfortable reporting an assault because they think they’re not going to be seen as a victim but as a person who brought on the attack.”
Budd said the nonprofit group receives about 10 complaints a month of assaults against members of the transgender community. Most of the victims are not willing to press charges or go to the police, Budd said, especially if illegal activity, such as drug buying or prostitution, is involved.
“There’s not a lot we can do,” Budd said. “We’re trying to educate our community on the need to be able to come forward and follow through with complaints when things happen.”