- The Washington Times - Monday, March 26, 2012

D.C. police announced Monday the arrest of a 27-year-old woman accused of shooting a man inside a Columbia Heights IHOP, an incident that has been labeled an anti-gay hate crime.

LaShawn Carson of the District was arrested and charged with aggravated assault in connection with the March 11 shooting.

According to documents filed in D.C. Superior Court, the incident began around 6:30 a.m. as an argument between two groups of customers inside the IHOP, located at 3100 14th St. NW. Police think slurs against gays were used during the argument.

The dispute was caught on a surveillance camera that shows Ms. Carson trying to separate the man who was eventually shot and a man who was with her group, court documents state. During the struggle, the eventual victim threw a glass at Ms. Carson’s friend and tried to punch the man but instead hit Ms. Carson in the face.

The fight was broken up by an off-duty police officer, but a short time later Ms. Carson allegedly could be seen on the surveillance video near the hostess stand in the restaurant firing a single shot from a gun.

The man survived the shooting but a bullet remains lodged in his liver, according to court documents.

Metropolitan Police Department Chief Cathy L. Lanier said epithets were used in the altercation, leading the police department to investigate the shooting as a possible hate crime. She did not elaborate on what was said or who said it. Chief Lanier said it will be up to the U.S. attorney’s office to decide whether to prosecute the shooting as a hate crime, which would add extra penalties to a sentence if Ms. Carson is convicted.

“What a relief this is,” D.C. Council member Jim Graham, Ward 1 Democrat, said of the arrest. “This was a horrendous hate crime that singled someone out on the perception they were part of a particular group.”

Ms. Carson was arraigned in D.C. Superior Court on Monday and ordered held without bond. A preliminary hearing in the case is scheduled for Thursday morning.

Though others were seen on the surveillance video with Ms. Carson, investigators would not say whether they expect additional arrests to be made in connection with the shooting. There is no reason to think the shooting was related to any other recent attacks on gay or transgender people in the District, said Cmdr. George Kucik, head of the department’s Criminal Investigations Division.

• Andrea Noble can be reached at anoble@washingtontimes.com.

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