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Sheriff’s Department faces questions, criticism at Lakeside forum on alleged hate-crime stabbing

A teenage boy suspected of stabbing a Black teenage girl at their shared apartment complex Saturday in Lakeside is expected to face an attempted murder charge in what investigators are calling a hate crime, authorities said Tuesday.

New details about the alleged hate-crime attack emerged Tuesday during a community town hall put on by the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department to address questions and concerns about the incident. Residents and activist groups from across the county expressed outrage during the forum, accusing the Sheriff’s Department of not doing enough to stop racism and racist attacks in East County.

Because of his age, authorities have not released the name of the 16-year-old boy who was arrested. Sheriff’s Lt. Shawn Wray from the Lakeside substation said the boy is facing an attempted murder charge with a hate-crime allegation.

The boy is expected to be charged Wednesday and to appear in juvenile court Thursday for the first time, according to Lisa Weinreb, who heads the juvenile branch of the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office. Weinreb told community members at the town hall that laws meant to protect juvenile defendants prohibited her from discussing details of the case.

Members of a San Diego County fugitive task force arrested the boy Monday, two days after the 16-year-old victim was stabbed twice in her back after allegedly being taunted with racial slurs by her attacker and others.

The assault occurred about 11 p.m. Saturday at an apartment complex near Mapleview Street and Channel Road, Wray said in a news release Monday. A group of people approached the victim and her family members about an incident from earlier in the day.

The group began yelling racial slurs at the victim and her family before the boy allegedly stabbed the girl, Wray said. Paramedics took the victim to a hospital.

Deputies identified a suspect and arrested a teenage girl believed to be his girlfriend on suspicion of brandishing a weapon during the incident, Wray said. She was later released to the custody of her guardian, while deputies arrested her boyfriend Monday.

Tasha Williamson, founder of the social justice group Exhaling Injustice, said during a press conference before Tuesday’s forum that the victim and her family had faced racist abuse in their apartment complex for years. Williamson said the victim and her younger sister, while walking their dog earlier in the day Saturday, got into a verbal altercation with the suspect.

Williamson said that argument was the third or fourth such incident between the victim and suspect, and said the suspect had used “racial epithets” on the previous occasions.

“The second altercation (Saturday) happened after (the suspect) didn’t like the first verbal altercation,” Williamson said.

In a news release, Wray referred to the first incident on Saturday as “an assault,” but did not give further details about who is accused of committing the assault.

Wray and Weinreb said deputies are investigating reports that the suspect’s father stood by, watched the attack and also hurled racial slurs at the girl, though both said those actions alone would not rise to the level of a crime.

“I understand that you are upset that the juvenile’s father was not arrested,” Wray told the roughly 125 people in attendance at the Lakeside Community Center.

“While it is horrific, horrific behavior, I can’t prosecute a parent for standing by,” Weinreb said in response to a question about whether a parent could be charged for not stopping their child from committing a crime. “I’m not telling you that is right, all I am telling you is that we have to look at the law and then apply that.”

Danielle Wilkerson from the group East County BIPOC — an acronym for Black, Indigenous, and people of color — said members of her organization and others attended the Tuesday night forum “because hate, discrimination and intolerance are not acceptable values in our community.”

East County, including Lakeside and neighboring Santee, has long had a reputation of being a hotspot for White supremacy in San Diego County. In the early days of the pandemic, one man wore a Ku Klux Klan hood into a Santee grocery store, and another man wore a Swastika on his face covering into a different Santee store. Both claimed the symbols were in protest of mask mandates. In 1998, five White men attacked a Black Marine at a Santee house party, breaking his neck and leaving him paralyzed.

“Racism is a running joke in East County,” Wilkerson said. “The racism is real, the racism is alive, and we have a victim this week from heinous acts of violence.”

Wray said the Sheriff’s Department investigated four reported hate crimes in Lakeside in each of 2019 and 2020 and one reported hate crime in 2021. He said Saturday’s stabbing was the first reported hate crime in the community in 2022.

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