The Charleston Police Department issued a correction Tuesday afternoon after initially saying that a trans woman who was assaulted after leaving a parking garage earlier this month was not targeted because of her gender identity.
On Sun. Aug. 19, an officer was flagged down outside of Deco night club on Ann Street shortly after 2 a.m. Kendra Martinez, 34, was found lying on the ground, face-down, with blood coming out of the left side of her head.
Her sister, Vanessa, told officers that she was kicked in the stomach by an unknown man following a verbal disturbance in the nearby parking garage. When Kendra stepped in to defend her sister, the unidentified man punched her in the left side of the head and ran off through the parking garage.
"The transgender came to the aide of her sister after her sister was kicked in the stomach by an unknown male," police spokesman Charles Francis said in a press release issued Fri. Aug. 24. "She wasn’t assaulted because she’s a transgender."
After obtaining surveillance video from the Brick, a nearby bar, and working with Alliance for Full Acceptance Executive Director Chase Glenn, the department has changed its tune.
"The police report about the incident didn't specify that the assault occurred as a result of her gender identity," Francis said in a press release Tuesday afternoon. "The follow-up investigation revealed the offender did confront the victim about the victim's gender identity prior to the assault."
Violence against trans women remains a critical issue for the LGBTQ community. The Human Rights Campaign tracked at least 28 trans deaths due to fatal violence in the United States in 2017
. This year has seen 16 trans fatalities thus far.
The LGBTQ advocacy organization says that "it is clear that fatal violence disproportionately affects transgender women of color."
South Carolina is one of only five states in the country without a hate crime law, which means that motives based on suspected transphobia, homophobia, racism, or any other form of bias or discrimination are not officially considered in prosecution of the cases.
"The investigation into this aggravated assault is ongoing and investigators are working closely with the Alliance for Full Acceptance to ensure all witnesses are interviewed and all violations of the law are considered," Francis said.
Kendra, a Goose Creek resident whose legal name appears in reports as Juan Carlos Rodriguez-Martinez, was hospitalized after the incident. She returned to work Tuesday, according to Glenn.
"Our number one concern is for the survivor of this attack and advocating on her behalf, as well as for the transgender community as a whole," Glenn said in a statement Tuesday afternoon.
"We know that when a trans person is attacked, it can instill a climate of fear in the entire community," he added. "We are focused on identifying ways that we can partner with the police department and the transgender community in the coming days to help build trust and increase understanding."
for Kendra had raised over $2,000 as of Wednesday morning.