Police in D.C. have arrested a suspect in connection with the anti-gay shooting that took place March 11 at an IHOP restaurant in Columbia Heights.
MPD Chief Cathy Lanier and Mayor Vincent Gray announced Monday that police arrested LaShawn Carson, 27, on charges of aggravated assault while armed.
“As I said at the time of the shooting, while all crime is horrific and destructive to the fabric of our community, hate crimes are particularly insidious because they instill fear in an entire group,” Gray said in a statement.
"I know that she didn't attempt to go in there and mess with anybody because she's not that type of person," said Kenneth Liggins, Carson's uncle.
Liggins said his 27-year-old niece would not target someone due to his or her sexual orientation.
"Her and hate crime. I can't see it," he said.
The IHOP shooting took place at the restaurant in the 3100 block of Irving Street NW in Columbia Heights. Witnesses say that a fight broke out in the restaurant shortly before the shooting, and one of the victim's family members told the media that the two persons of interest continually directed derogatory insults toward the victim and his cousins.
Officials called the shooting, which spurred protests and demonstrations, as a hate-related assault.
Liggins believes his niece was the one who felt threatened in the altercation.
"I think it was self-defense. Be you gay or whatever you may be, the case doesn't change. You are a man and she is a female. So what does the female to do when she's attacked by a man, gay or straight?" he said.
Within 48 hours of the IHOP shooting, a gay man was beaten several blocks away and a transgender woman was assaulted in Northeast D.C.
The unrelated attacks inspired a massive march organized by Patrick Pressman, who is thrilled at the news of the IHOP arrest.
"I feel really heartened by it. It's a closure to one case," he said.
He hopes this development inspires other hate crimes victims.
"They don't want to come out. A lot of it is not reported, which is sad to say. I want to encourage everyone, if you get attacked for any reason, report it," Pressman said.