CALIFORNIA: Oakland Teen Charged With Hate Crime After Setting Transgender City Bus Passenger On Fire

Via the San Jose Mercury-News:

A 16-year-old who told police homophobia caused him to light a sleeping teen’s skirt on fire aboard an AC Transit bus Monday night has been charged as an adult and could go to prison for life if convicted, prosecutors announced Thursday. Richard Thomas, an Oakland High School student, on Thursday was charged with aggravated mayhem and assault with means likely to produce great bodily injury, both felonies that include two hate crime enhancements. Thomas’ “violent and senseless criminal conduct resulted in severe and traumatic injuries to a young and entirely innocent victim,” Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley said. “The intentional and callous nature of the crime is shocking and will not be tolerated in our community,” O’Malley said. “Our thoughts remain with the victim and the victim’s family in wishing for a full recovery from the extensive burns suffered as a result of this crime.”

More about the attack:

Authorities said Thomas boarded the bus near his high school at 5:20 p.m. Monday, saw 18-year-old Luke “Sasha” Fleischman sleeping in a rear seat and lit Fleischman’s skirt on fire. He was arrested at Oakland High School on Tuesday afternoon after bus surveillance footage helped police identify him as the alleged attacker. Fleischman, a senior at Maybeck High School in Berkeley, suffered second- to third-degree burns and was in stable condition at St. Francis Memorial Hospital’s Bothin Burn Center in San Francisco on Thursday. Friends and family say Fleischman identifies as “nonbinary” gender, meaning the Oakland teen does not identify as male or female.

The Los Angeles Times reports that the victim will need “massive skin-grafting” for second and third-degree burns. Thomas faces a possible life sentence for felony aggravated assault as a hate crime.

UPDATE: Students and staffers and the victim’s school wore skirts today in solidarity.

“The students wanted to rally their support for Sasha, so they came up with the idea of wearing skirts because that’s what Sasha likes to do and what Sasha was wearing when Sasha was lit on fire,” said Cralle, who wore a type of floral sarong known as a “lava-lava” that is worn by both men and woman in the Pacific Islands. Cralle did not have a count of how many of Maybeck High’s 110 students were sporting skirts, but he said there was widespread participation. “Everybody, students and staff, male and female, is wearing skirts,” he said. The school planned to pose for a group photo at lunch so it could be delivered to Fleischman, who remained in stable condition with second- and third-degree burns on his legs.