Members of a San Diego, California, community are outraged after a 16-year-old white male pleaded not guilty to charges connected to an altercation that left a Black girl with multiple stab wounds in her back. Authorities are considering the act a hate crime, as moments before the assault, the boy and other teens allegedly hurled racial slurs at the African-American teen.
On Thursday, April 21, the suspect, whose name is being withheld because he is a minor, told the courts he did not stab the young lady — who also is 16 years old — in the back on Saturday, April 16, in front of a group of her family members at the Woodglen Apartments on the 12000 block of Mapleview Street in Lakeside, CA, not far from state Route 67.
The San Diego County Sheriff’s Department said the incident happened around 11 p.m. and stemmed from an earlier altercation between different but related parties.
The white teen gathered with others to approach the Black teen and her relatives, Lt. Shawn Wray said, which led to a fight. During the melee, the girl was stabbed twice, and the young man ran off with his associates. She was taken to the hospital to have her injuries treated.
On Monday, April 18, the boy turned himself in. His girlfriend was also arrested; however, she was released even though she allegedly waved a weapon before the fight began.
The teen’s defense lawyer requested he be released to his family on home supervision and GPS monitoring, but the request was denied by Superior Court Judge Richard Monroy.
Because of the flagrant use of racial epithets, a special hate crime count, packaged with an allegation of personal use of a deadly weapon and an allegation of personal infliction of great bodily injuries, will be attached to the charges of attempted murder and assault with a deadly weapon. If he is found guilty, he could receive up to 17 years in prison.
According to The San Diego Union-Tribune, the boy’s parents, grandmother and other family members were there to support him at the hearing held Thursday at a San Diego Juvenile Court. The girl, whose injuries have not been disclosed, was also in attendance with her mother, aunts and grandparents.
Wray, who leads the department’s Lakeside substation, said “it is the first hate crime that is being investigated in Lakeside in 2022.”
District Attorney Summer Stephan, who was elected to prosecute crimes across San Diego County, is looking to see what other charges can be leveraged against “other individuals involved” in the attack.
During a town hall meeting at the Lakeside Community Center on Tuesday, April 19, more than 100 activists and members of the community challenged the sheriff’s office to be vigilant in bringing justice to the high school student, NBC San Diego reported.
As Wray opened the floor for questions, “This was almost a murder!” was proclaimed from the audience.
Judy Jensven, a Lakeside resident, said, “Let’s go after this punk’s parents. They learn this hate somewhere.”
Detectives said they are investigating to see if the boy’s father was in the crowd yelling derogatory slurs and is culpable for the crime.
“You’re setting a dangerous [expletive] precedent if you don’t arrest the father,” one person stated.
Another person co-signed saying, “While you investigate, he should be in jail.”
Lisa Weinreb, chief deputy of the juvenile branch of the District Attorney’s Office, who was present at the community talk, addressed arresting the father, “While it is horrific, horrific behavior, I can’t prosecute a parent for standing by.”
“We are dictated by the law and the law doesn’t allow somebody, and it specifically says if they were standing as a bystander and did nothing more, then it’s not a crime.”
The DA added, “Multiple aspects of this incident are appalling and as our investigation moves forward, we will be sure to hold everyone accountable for whom the evidence shows committed a crime.”
Activists believe that the handling of the case is colored by the county’s history of racism.
Danielle Wilkerson of the East County BIPOC Coalition said, “It’s a running joke that East County is racist.”
“You’ve heard Klantee, you’ve heard White Hills, all the things people put a layer of humor on, but that racism is real and alive, and we had a victim this week,” Wilkerson said.
Stephan recognized the validity in Wilkerson’s assertion, saying her office has seen a “disturbing increase in hate crimes, with the highest number being committed against persons who are Black.” She further presented startling facts: her office filed 21 hate crime cases in 2020 and 30 cases in 2022.
The two-hour conversation culminated with a promise to address the larger issues of racially-inspired violence in the coming months, KPBS reported.
Some people in the audience, like San Diego activist Tasha Willamson, thought the promise was empty.
“I feel like this was fluff,” she said after the meeting. “This is a new lieutenant who has no clue what he has stepped into or may have a clue but is not sure of the severity.”
A spokesperson for the housing development where the stabbing happened released a statement about the violence that occurred saying, “We have a zero-tolerance policy towards violence of any kind, and we stand firmly against any acts of hate. Our top priority is our community’s safety and well-being, and we are actively assisting the ongoing investigation.”
The teen has been ordered to stay away from the victim, her mother and her sister and is due back in court June 6.