A transgender woman who left her home in El Salvador in search of a safer life was brutally stabbed in MacArthur Park over the weekend, according to advocates and investigators.
The woman was surrounded by a group of people who stabbed her multiple times around 9 p.m. Sunday, after one of them stated they “don’t want gays” in the park, the Los Angeles Police Department said.
Police are investigating the attack as a hate crime and are working to identify suspects.
Friends identified the victim as 42-year-old Daniela Hernandez, and said she was sitting alone on a bench in the park when she was approached.
The attackers spewed hateful language and used a slur in telling Hernandez they didn’t want her there, said Bamby Salcedo, president and CEO of the TransLatin@ Coalition. Hernandez volunteers at the coalition, a national trans support group based in L.A.
Salcedo says Hernandez was approached by four or five people. But in a news release Tuesday, LAPD described the assailants as a group of three, believed to be two men and one woman between 18 and 25 years old.
Salcedo told KTLA the attackers spewed hateful language at Hernandez and used a slur in telling her they didn’t want her in the park.
“They just, out of the blue, started stabbing her,” she said.
Hernandez was stabbed 16 times and her throat was slashed, according to Salcedo. Police said she was listed in stable condition at an area hospital Tuesday, but advocates say she faces a long road to recovery.
Hernandez is also contending with staggering emotional trauma, Salcedo said.
“She left her country — she’s from El Salvador — specifically running away from violence, only to come to the U.S., she said. “Instead of finding the American dream, she found the American nightmare.”
Sunday’s stabbing follows a hate crime attack on three transgender women in Hollywood in August. Two men were later charged in that incident, in which the women were assaulted and robbed as bystanders jeered and livestreamed on social media.
Transgender women of color are among the most vulnerable people in society. Last year, at least 27 transgender or gender non-conforming people were killed in the U.S., the majority of them Black, according to the Human Rights Campaign.
Officials expected a higher toll this year, said LAPD’s LGBTQ outreach coordinator, Assistant Chief Beatrice Girmala.
Dwayne Butler, who lives near MacArthur Park, said trans people do not feel safe in the area.
“It’s not fair because it’s a lot of people who discriminate against us, especially walking around here,” Butler said. “Anything can happen. It’s not safe. It’s just not safe.”
Despite the challenges they face, the community is going to continue fighting for Hernandez, Salcedo said.
“We are going to make sure that she gets justice, and whoever is responsible for this, that they get the punishment they deserve,” she said. “No one should be attacked simply because of who they are.”
Police say the assailants fled the park in a white Honda sedan. Anyone with information can contact LAPD’s Rampart area detectives at 213-484-3660. Calls after normal business hours should be directed to 877-527-3247, and anonymous tips may be submitted via 800-222-8477 or www.lacrimestoppers.org.