(OAKLAND, CA) A Northern California teenager has been arrested and will be charged as an adult with felony assault and aggravated mayhem. Reports say that Richard Thomas, 16, set another teen on fire while riding a public bus. The incident occurred this past Monday and District Attorney Nancy O'Malley is citing hate crime as the motivating factor.
The Associated Press (AP) reports that the victim, Luke "Sasha" Fleischman, was sleeping when the attack began. Thomas set the kilt-type garment that Fleischman was wearing a blaze.
Fleischman, 18, is gender neutral or as some call it, "gender-queer". The term gender-queer is used to define a person who considers themselves genderless (not male or female).
According to Reuters, Fleischman is in a San Francisco hospital recovering from severe burns. In stable condition, the teen will need significant surgery to fully bounce back.
The victim's family has set up a website (at fundly.com) to raise funds for medical treatment. The site reports that the goal of $20,000 has been exceeded.
Arrested at his high school after surveillance video from the bus was reviewed by authorities, Thomas does not yet have a lawyer and therefore did not enter a plea during his arraignment on Thursday. Thomas's grandmother pleaded with the judge to allow more time so they could find legal representation. Thomas will stay in custody without bail and is due back in court Nov. 12.
Family is claiming that Thomas is not homophobic or hateful and would not intentionally harm another person. His mother, Ms. Jackson, believes that this is a joke gone horribly awry. Jackson told reporters, "I am very sorry, very sorry for my son's actions," "I did not raise him that way." Jackson also said that the victim could expect a letter of apology from her son.
The victim attends Maybeck High School in Berkeley and is said to be well-liked and a great student.