The Fortuna Police Department is investigating allegations of a hate crime after a trans man reported being harassed and threatened at the Dollar General last week.
According to Lt. Matt Eberhardt, the man came into the police department around noon on July 7 and reported that the evening prior, around 7 p.m., he had been waiting in line at the store when the male customer immediately in front of him asked, “Are you trans?” Eberhardt said the man at first thought the question was a sign of someone being friendly and curious, wanting to ask questions.
According to Eberhardt, they responded, “Yeah, I am. What are you?”
“Then, right off the bat, it was aggression from the other person,” Eberhardt said. “Just things like, ‘I’m a real man,’ ‘People like you shouldn’t be allowed in the store,’ threatening to kick the person's ass. Just a lot of aggression.”
Eberhardt said the trans man said he calmly asked the other customer to just pay and move on, wanting the interaction to end, but the other customer kept at him, calling him a “fucking faggot” and making threats, yelling and “constantly repeating that he was going to beat them up.”
After the man left the store, the victim asked the clerk if he could stay in the store awhile, afraid the other customer might be waiting for him outside. After a few minutes, he left for his car, which was parked directly in front. He was able to get inside the car and lock the doors before he saw the other man across the parking lot, at which point the man started yelling again and ran toward the victim’s car, before he drove away.
“An officer took a hate crime case and it’s still under investigation,” Eberhardt said. “We’re hoping we can identify who the person is and forward a case on to the district attorney’s office, because this is unacceptable.”
After watching body camera footage of an officer’s interview with the victim, Eberhardt said it was clear to him the man was shaken by the incident.
“They were scared,” he said. “They definitely were fearful.”
Eberhardt said staff at Dollar General have been helpful and are looking for surveillance footage that might capture the exchange and help identify the assailant. The victim in the case kept his transaction receipt, Eberhardt said, so police are also hopeful they may be able to use that to see if there is any identifying information associated with the transaction immediately prior to his. The lieutenant also asked that anyone with information about the case call the Fortuna Police Department at 725-7550.
In California, Penal Code section 422.55 defines a hate crime as a criminal act committed because of the victim’s actual or perceived disability, gender, nationality, race or ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation or association with a group with these “actual or perceived characteristics.”
Eberhardt said this is the first hate crime investigation he can remember in Fortuna, adding it’s troubling.
“Nobody should be treated like this,” he said.