She Said She Hated White People. Then She Attacked With Pepper Spray.
As a man shopped with his wife in the Belmont neighborhood of the Bronx on Friday, a woman stepped up to them and said she hated white people. Then she attacked, kicking the man and spraying him with pepper spray, the police said.
The next day, the same person, who is black, approached a man and a woman in the same neighborhood, asked the woman if she was white and then immediately sprayed her in the eyes.
On Saturday, police arrested Thomas Heard, a 37-year-old from the Bronx who identifies as a transgender woman, and charged her with multiple hate-crime felonies and misdemeanors in connection with the two attacks.
Police were also questioning Ms. Heard, who also goes by the name Tasha, about seven similar pepper spray attacks in Manhattan on Friday, which were committed by a woman matching her description.
Four of the attacks took place in Harlem and on the Upper West Side, the police said. Two of the attacks occurred in subway stations. These incidents are also being investigated as possible hate crimes, the authorities said.
None of the victims were seriously injured.
Ms. Heard’s arrest comes amid a rise in reported hate crimes throughout the city. Hate crimes rose 5 percent in 2018 compared to 2017, with crimes targeting black people because of their race rising 33 percent and anti-Semitic hate crimes rising 22 percent. That upward trend has continued in the first two months of the year.
Ms. Heard has been arrested more than 60 times since 2002 on charges including prostitution, sexual misconduct and disorderly conduct, police said.
In the Bronx, Ms. Heard was charged with assault and menacing as a hate crime, both felonies, among other charges. She was arraigned Sunday and held on $30,000 bond.
On Monday, Ms. Heard’s neighbors in Belmont said they often hear yelling and fighting from inside her apartment, but they believe she lives alone.
The first Bronx attack took place on Friday at 2 p.m. A 55-year-old white man was walking with his wife along a busy commercial section of East 187th Street, when Ms. Heard stopped them, used an obscenity to announce her hatred for Caucasians and then sprayed the man in the face with pepper spray, the police said.
On Saturday, the police said, Ms. Heard accosted a man and a woman at 4:30 p.m. as they walked together near the corner of Crotona Avenue and East 187th Street. She asked the woman if she was white, then sprayed her in the face with pepper spray, the police said. She also brandished a “sharp object” as a weapon, the police said.
Ms. Heard’s lawyer, Suzanne McElwreath, did not immediately return messages from a reporter on Monday.
Edgar Sandoval contributed reporting.
Follow Tyler Pager on Twitter: @tylerpager.
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