San Luis Obispo police are investigating whether an assault on a transgender woman at a local motel on Tuesday qualifies as a hate crime.
The incident unfolded at the Super 8 Motel around 10 p.m. Tuesday, according to police. An employee of the motel said Friday that the motel's name was changed Wednesday to Mission Inn, though it's unclear if the name change has anything to do with the incident that occurred the night before.
"She said she felt frightened for her life," said Tranz Central Coast Chair Jamie Woolf.
Woolf is assisting the victim with finding resources, as well as the San Luis Obispo Gay and Lesbian Alliance (GALA), which issued a statement Friday about the incident. In that press release, GALA called for protection of transgender rights.
Police say a Fresno man in his 20s hit the victim after she threw her soft drink on him during a verbal altercation.
"It was slurs and hate speech toward her gender and sexual orientation," said San Luis Obispo Police Sgt. Trevor Shalhoob.
He said the man, whose name is not being released, has been cited for misdemeanor battery and is not in custody.
"The victim had minor facial injuries," Shalhoob said.
But according to Woolf, the victim was very shaken up by what she perceives as a hate crime.
"We tend to feel like we live in a safe little cocoon in San Luis Obispo, but an event like this makes us feel nervous," Woolf said.
GALA Executive Director Michelle Call said this incident is an example of why trans people need allies.
"We all have different levels of privilege and we need to use that to help those who aren't at that same level and maybe don't have the power to help themselves, they're vulnerable," Call said.
Shalhoob said additional statements from the victim indicate the incident could be a hate crime and his department has forward the additional findings on to the San Luis Obispo County District Attorney's Office for review of potential charges.
The investigation is ongoing and police said the male friend who was with the suspect could also face charges.