Prosecutors in the San Luis Obsipo County District Attorney’s Office are reviewing the case of a trans woman assaulted at a local motel last week deciding whether to lodge hate crime charges against one of the perpetrators.
The woman, who has only been identified by the initial “J” by The San Luis Obispo Tribune newspaper in the initial media account of the incident, reported that she was assaulted by a group of men after a verbal altercation became physical.
Captain Jeff Smith, the SLO Police Department’s public information officer, told the Los Angeles Blade Monday that a suspect involved in the incident, 25 year-old Fresno resident Dalton Montoya, was cited for misdemeanor battery by responding officers. He was not detained.
According to The Tribune and the SLOPD, the victim was staying at the Super 8 Motel by Wyndom on Monterey Street and was returning to her room when a group of men gathered there started making crude remarks about her appearance and gender. They also tried to solicit sex, offering her $200 to perform sex acts.
“I heard someone say ‘tranny,’” she told the Tribune. “I was just minding my own business.”
J said she told the group that “‘some day, somebody’s going to treat your children, your daughter, the way you’re treating me.”
One man started getting angry and aggressive and she opened the lid on the soda cup she was carrying and “splashed” it on him, she said.
“He just started punching me and punching me in the face,” J said.
“The man allegedly held her to the ground, striking her repeatedly, banging her head on the stairs and choking her until she blacked out,” The Tribune reported. “When she came to, she said a second man was half kicking her and half pushing the other man off her. She then ran to the lobby, and hotel staff eventually called 911, she said.”
“I literally thought I was going to die,” J told The Tribune. “Some people are saying (online) that I assaulted him first (because of the soda), but I did not assault him — any woman would do that to a man who talked to her like that.”
J suffered a concussion and several other injuries requiring a two-day stay in a local hospital.
The Gay and Lesbian Alliance of the Central Coast (GALA) Executive Director Michelle Call told the Los Angeles Blade in a phone call Monday that the victim contacted her organization after she was released from hospital. Call said that she accompanied the victim to view the motel’s surveillance footage, noting that the footage showed the considerable intensity and violent nature of the assault.
An important consideration was the response by SLO police officers at the scene she categorized as respectful and did not misgender or otherwise be dismissive of the victim, Call said. Since San Luis Obispo Police Chief Deanna Cantrell took over at the SLOPD, its officers have undergone training including sensitivity training to better serve the needs of the area’s LGBTQ community, she said.
“What makes situations like this better is the collaboration we have with the department,” Call said. “It makes everything so much better.” She added that representatives from her organization alongside members of the local trans advocacy group, Tranz Central Coast, met with police detectives to encourage a thorough review of the case.
SLOPD’s Smith noted that more often than not the victims of hate crimes have a distrust of law enforcement.
“Without open conversations we would be unable to address the concerns of the victims and hopefully gain their trust through this process,” Smith said. “We want to make sure everyone is treated with respect and all crimes are properly and thoroughly investigated.”