A woman has been charged with multiple hate crime felonies and misdemeanors following a series of pepper spray attacks in New York City.
Tasha Heard was arrested Saturday evening in connection with at least two separate attacks, though police were reportedly questioning her about several other similar incidents.
In one alleged incident, Heard, who is black is accused of approaching a white couple in their 50s on Friday afternoon while they shopped in the Bronx. She reportedly told the couple she hated white people before assaulting them.
"They were approached by the defendant who kicked both victims and sprayed a substance in their face," an NYPD spokesperson stated in an email. "The victims suffered minor injuries."
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The other alleged incident for which Heard has been charged is similar in nature and occurred Saturday in the Bronx.
"The defendant approached a 30-year-old male and a 24-year-old female, asked them if they were white and displayed a sharp object causing fear," the NYPD stated. "The female victim was sprayed in the face with an unknown substance causing redness, burning and discomfort."
Court documents did not list an attorney for Heard, who is transgender and referred to in official documents and police reports by her legal first name, Thomas.
Police told NBC New York that Heard pepper-sprayed six other white people in Manhattan — five at a subway stop in Harlem and one at a nearby subway stop on the Upper West Side.
Joshua Smith, one of those alleged victims, said the suspect never said a word when she pepper-sprayed him near subway stop on 125th Street in Harlem.
“She held the mace directly to my eye and sprayed it in my eye,” Smith told NBC New York. “She just walked up to me, like literally walked up, maced me and kept walking.”
Smith said being sprayed in the face was “rough.”
“It lights your whole face on fire, your sinuses, your throat feels like it’s closing up,” he explained.
These alleged attacks occurred amid increased reports of bias crimes in the United States. In its latest report, the FBI reported more than a 17 percent rise in hate crimes across the country in 2017 — the third consecutive year the numbers have increased.
When it comes to bias attacks motivated by race or ethnicity, the FBI's latest report found almost half (48.8 percent) were motivated by anti-black bias, while 17.5 percent were motivated by anti-white bias and 10.9 percent by anti-Latino bias.