Police look for suspect in sudden, 'horrific' hate-crime attack against gay woman in Tacoma

TACOMA -- Police are searching for the man who launched a sudden, violent attack on a lesbian looking for her missing dog in her Tacoma neighborhood.

The 45-year-old woman was attacked, stabbed and choked with a dog leash early Sunday morning in what police are treating as a hate crime.

"It’s so horrific that she can’t even fathom how this could happen to anyone, let alone herself," said Gretchen, the victim's roommate, who spoke on behalf of her friend because the victim is still so scared. "It’s so wrong."

The woman was attacked around 2:45 a.m. Sunday as she left her home to look for her dog, which had run off, Tacoma police said Monday.

Police said as she walked in the 900 block of East 51st Street, she passed a man and asked if he’d seen a dog run by. He pointed in a direction and she began walking that way.

As she walked into the alley, the man allegedly followed her and knocked her down from behind. The man attacked her, wrote on her in black marker and stabbed her multiple times with a pocketknife, police said. He also took her dog leash and choked her with it, police said.

Detectives say during the attack, the man screamed violent homophobic remarks and hate speech at the victim. He apparently tore away her clothes and wrote homophobic slurs on her body, and ran off when her dog began barking and biting him.

A nearby neighbor, Desmond Aarons, told Q13 FOX News he heard the victim's screams and ran to the alley. The woman was taken to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.

"I heard her screaming," Aarons said. "It's scary to see stuff happen like that where people live at."

Aarons said he didn't know the victim, and he just wanted to help. He also said the alley where the woman was attacked is a popular walking spot in between neighborhoods.

"I saw little kids walking down this alley the other day," Aarons said.

The suspect is described as being about 25 years old, having a Hispanic accent, being drunk and wearing a Seahawks baseball cap and Seahawks sweatshirt. Police are looking for him, and hope to put the man behind bars with charges of a hate crime.

“It is being treated as a hate crime due to the derogatory names he wrote on her and what he said to her,” Tacoma police Sgt. Loretta Cool said.

Gretchen says it is terrifying to know that the suspect may be living in their neighborhood.

"That there’s still people out there that can have this level of hate towards gay people is just amazing," she said.

A local support center for the gay community in Tacoma is planning a forum on how to end hate crime in the community. It will be held at the Oasis and Rainbow Center building, 2215 Pacific Avenue, on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. The whole community is invited to participate.

Said Michelle Douglas, the director of the center: "This is a tragedy for Tacoma, it’s a tragedy for the whole community, and it’s especially a tragedy for the survivor. No one wants this to happen in their city and what we’re really trying to do is mobilize a community dialogue and response right away."