A man charged with intentionally driving a stolen car into a transgender woman and critically injuring her last week in Northeast Washington was high on PCP and told police he had gone on an hours-long joyride, according to the arrest affidavit filed in court.
The 26-year-old victim, who police said remains hospitalized on a respirator with injuries including internal bleeding in the brain, a punctured lung and a lacerated spleen, had volunteered with transgender advocacy groups.
Police have charged Startwaune Anderson, 18, of Northeast with aggravated assault while armed. He lives in the Trinidad neighborhood, on the same street in which police said the vehicle — a black 2014 Ford Focus hatchback — was stolen and about half a mile from where the victim was struck while crossing the street in the early-morning hours.
Transgender groups are calling on D.C. police to record the July 5 hit-and-run at Fourth and K streets Northeast as a hate crime, based on accounts from three witnesses that a man solicited the victim for sex before the crash and threatened to return with a gun when he was rejected. Two witnesses told police the man was a passenger in the striking vehicle; another said he was the driver.
But the arrest affidavit says the witnesses, friends of the victim, may have confused two unrelated incidents. Police wrote that they found no evidence Anderson had an encounter with the victim before the 3:20 a.m. crash.
Acting Capt. Anthony Haythe of the D.C. police homicide unit said Wednesday that “we cannot definitively say at this point that it was a hate crime.” The captain did say that “we have not ruled that out, and we are still investigating.” He added, “We believe the vehicle was used as a weapon.”
“What we do know is someone is getting justice today, and that is the most important thing for us, given we still have to walk and live in this city,” said Ruby Corado, founder of Casa Ruby, an LGBT organization that has helped the victim over the past several years.
A D.C. Superior Court judge ordered Anderson detained until a preliminary hearing on Friday. His attorney did not respond to interview requests.
According to the affidavit, Anderson found car keys on a sidewalk outside his home on Morse Street and clicked them until he found the matching vehicle. He admitted to police on July 7 to smoking PCP-laced marijuana and other drugs, the court document says.
At first, the affidavit says, Anderson told police he went on a joyride and may have struck a trash bin. Police said surveillance video recorded near the crash scene shows the car speeding up as it turns a corner, seconds before the victim was struck. Just before impact, which was not captured on the video, police said the sound picked up two engine revs, “indicating that the driver is rapidly accelerating.” The court document also says the driver changed lanes, lining up with the victim.
Police said that after the crash, the driver sped away but later stopped to change a flat tire. The affidavit says the driver slept in the car for a bit and then resumed his ride, stopping after hitting a fence at Gallaudet University on West Virginia Avenue shortly before 10 a.m.
Police said the car had blood on it and a damaged passenger-side windshield. Witness descriptions led police to Anderson.
Police said Anderson told them he was alone in the car and may have hit a fence. “I think I crashed,” the affidavit quotes him saying.
A detective then told Anderson, the affidavit says, that he hit “something more important than a fence.” The court document says Anderson replied: “Did I hit a person, did I hit a tree?”
Police said Anderson then said, “It was either a car or a Dumpster. It was red or something. I wasn’t that f------ high to hit a f------ person. I know how to drive.”
Police said the victim was wearing a red dress.