All the while, a crowd of onlookers stood by, watching and recording the repeated verbal and physical assaults, with many yelling their own transphobic insults at the women.
The Los Angeles Police Department said on Thursday that they had found the man responsible for the crime, which inspired dozens to march in support of the victims and led city officials this week to slam the bystanders for failing to help the women.
Police arrested 29-year-old Carlton Callway on robbery and assault charges, calling Callway’s actions a hate crime. Authorities said in a news conference Thursday that the suspect bragged about the assault on social media. Police also identified two other men allegedly involved in the incident, charging Willie Walker, 42, with extortion. Police are still searching for a third suspect, Davion Williams, 22, who is wanted for assault.
In a news conference on Thursday, deputy chief Justin Eisenberg called the witnesses to the scene “callous” and Los Angeles City Councilman Mitch O’Farrell said he was outraged by the footage.
“When I saw the video, like anyone who has seen it who believes in human decency, to see this level of violence celebrated gleefully, so much so that the perpetrator himself posted on social media, is like a sucker punch to all of us who believe in civilized behavior,” O’Farrell said.
Violence against trans people is on the rise nationwide, according to the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBTQ rights organization. So far this year there have been “at least 26 transgender or gender-nonconforming people fatally shot or killed,” according to the HRC. There were at least 27 deaths in 2019.
Allen, Busanet, and Estrada had been shopping on Hollywood Boulevard early on Monday morning when Callway allegedly began harassing them for being trans women. He found them again as they were waiting for an Uber, Estrada told WJLA. He then continued berating the women as a group of onlookers surrounded them.
“They started throwing rocks, lighters, they started calling us men,” Estrada said.
Callway then allegedly threatened Allen with a crowbar and robbed her. Not long after Allen escaped, the suspect found Busanet and Estrada. A video of the incident, which was filmed and streamed live by a spectator, shows Callway running toward them and knocking Busanet on the back of her head and running away. Police said he’d attacked her with a bottle.
“I just collapsed to the floor,” Busanet told KABC. “I literally, like completely blacked out, passed out completely.”
For more than five minutes a crowd stood, watching and recording as Busanet remained curled in a ball, sobbing on the street, with Estrada crouched by her head. In the videos, bystanders can be heard mocking the women, laughing and calling them names.
“When I got hit in the back of my f-----g head and I fell to the ground, do you know what people did? Everyone crowded around me, laughing at me, recording me, telling me that I deserved that because they thought that I tricked the man and that’s why he’s beating me up,” Busanet said in an Instagram Live early Monday morning.
Allen began pacing behind them, pleading with the onlookers to call 911. But no one did anything.
“We thought we were going to die because the guy had left and he’s going to come back, he has a crowbar,” Estrada said.
Eventually the police arrived and the crowd dispersed.
The police chief, Michel Moore, posted a video on Twitter pledging support to the transgender community.
“These types of instances of hate and violence have no place in Los Angeles,” Moore said. “The Los Angeles Police Department stands fully in support of your rights, your dignity and respect each of you as individuals. And we will not allow this to occur here, and we will do everything within our power to ensure that it does not.”
The assault garnered national headlines this week and sparked a campaign of support, with one GoFundMe raising more than $16,000 for the women’s legal fees. On Thursday, a crowd of protesters marched down Hollywood Boulevard to support the victims.
“I don’t even have words for this,” Allen wrote with an Instagram post about the march. “I am so touched that that many people care about what happened to us, and what happens to trans women everywhere. Thank you so much from the bottom of my heart. I can’t even explain how much this means to me.”