Two Charlotte teenagers have been charged with attempted first-degree murder in a hatchet attack last week on a transgender woman.
Destiny Dagraca and Dajion Tanner, both 18, are also charged with robbery with a dangerous weapon, felony conspiracy and first-degree kidnapping, according to jail records.
A third suspect, a 15-year-old minor, also is being held in connection with the Nov. 7 daylight beating. In addition, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg police report lists a fourth suspect, but the status of this person remained unclear.
The victim, Ralayzia Taylor, 24, said she was chased, stomped, beaten and cut by a group of males and at a female near Clanton Park in southwest Charlotte.
She said one of the men chopped down on her with the hatchet or ax (the Charlotte-Mecklenburg police report uses both descriptions), leaving deep wounds on her back that took two dozen stitches to close.
Taylor said her attackers also repeatedly called her a “faggot.” She thinks she was a random robbery target. But she believes she underwent a savage 10-minute beating because she is gay and transgender.
Taylor says she had been in Charlotte for about a year. She said she left her native Cincinnati because of family conflicts over her decision to transition from a man to a woman. Her dream, she says, is to one day live in Myrtle Beach.
Federal statutes define a “hate crime” as any offense committed due to “gender, sexual orientation and gender identity,” among other factors.
As of Tuesday, the assault on Taylor had not been designated as such. Charlotte FBI spokeswoman Shelley Lynch said the bureau is aware of the incident and working with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department, but is not formally investigating the case at this point.
A check of public records indicates that Dagraca had no previous criminal record. Tanner, however, has been arrested at least five times, according to Mecklenburg jail records. Past charges include two counts of robbery with a dangerous weapon. At the time of the alleged assault on Taylor, Tanner was serving two years probation from a July conviction for common law robbery.
A walk and a smoke
Taylor said she was taking a late morning walk in Clanton Park, between West Boulevard and Remount Road, when she stopped at a bench to smoke a Newport and charge her cellphone. Two males walked past.
“I ignored them the first time because I don’t bother anyone,” Taylor said. “But then I saw them turn around. They stopped and looked at me. I said, ‘Something is going on.’ So I unplugged my phone and started to leave.”
Taylor says the pair broke into a brisk walk, then a run as she fled through a wooded area. As she stepped over a low fence into a yard, Taylor said she dropped her cellphone. When she reached to get it, a fist crashed into her face, she said.
She said she tried to cover up but was stomped and punched. She says she tried to keep her attackers’ hands from getting into her pockets where she kept about $10. They retaliated by slicing up her hands with her own pocket knife, she said.
Ax or hatchet? Taylor says she’s not sure. “It’s what they use to chop down a freaking tree,” she said, adding that her attackers used it several times on her.
She said she called for help, but a man working on his car nearby just watched.
The beating stopped, Taylor said, when the female who had taken part in the attack called off her companions.
“She’s already bloody enough,” Taylor says she remembers the female saying.
Taylor said she fled to a nearby recreation center where she said she collapsed after pounding on the door.
N.C. hate crimes jump
In 2015, hate crimes based on sexual orientation in North Carolina rose 61 percent – from 23 to 37 – far outpacing the national average increase of 3.5 percent, according to FBI statistics released Monday. Charlotte-Mecklenburg police reported nine crimes based on sexual orientation in 2015 compared with five the year before.
Taylor, who said by phone that she’s recovering at her mother’s home in Cincinnati, said she’s too frightened to live in Charlotte again, though she still dreams of Myrtle Beach.
If her attackers have trials, Taylor said she will be there to testify.
“I don’t want to show my face to any of them,” she said. “But I’m scared for any other transgender person they might come across.”
Researcher Maria David and Gavin Off contributed