FIRST ON 7: Woman sprays unknown substance in series of attacks, police launch hate crime investigation

CeFaan Kim Image
Sunday, March 10, 2019
Woman sprays unknown substance in series of attacks, police launch hate crime investigation
CeFaan Kim has exclusive video.

BELMONT, Bronx (WABC) -- A woman was arrested after police say she went on a spree of hate attacks using some type of pepper-spray-like liquid on random strangers.

She was identified by police as Thomas J. Heard, a 37-year-old transgender woman from the Bronx.

She was arrested just after 4:30 p.m. at Crotona Avenue and 187th Street after another woman was threatened with a sharp object. The victim called police to help track her down.

Police are also looking into whether she could be connected to an attack Friday in the Bronx.

In exclusive surveillance video obtained by Eyewitness News, a woman in a light blue jacket violently kicked a random stranger in her leg.

That stranger is Denise Gannaway. She was walking with her boyfriend, Joe Barbuto by 187th Street by Hughes Avenue in the Bronx around 2 p.m. Friday when it all happened.

"All of a sudden, I hear this woman yell at me from behind, 'I hate you, you expletive expletive!'" Gannaway says.

Gannaway then screamed for her boyfriend for help. The suspect then chased both of them.

"I saw her pull something out of her pocket. I didn't know if it was a gun, I didn't know if it was a knife - I didn't know what she had," she added.

"She says 'I'm gonna pepper spray you' and she came around and she actually got me across my face," says Barbuto.

The woman was not done - she then followed Barbuto around the corner and gets him again.

"And then she pepper sprayed him in the eye. He ran after her," said Gannaway.

Gannaway says it happened so suddenly that it left her shaken.

The suspect then fled the scene.

Also on Friday, police say she sprayed a 29-year-old man in the subway station at West 125th Street and Lenox Avenue around noon, and then ran out onto the street and sprayed five more people.

Soon after that, police say she attacked another woman while waiting for the 1 train at West 96th Street and Broadway.

Police are now investigating Friday's attacks as hate crimes.

Heard was charged with assault as a hate crime, menacing as a hate crime, harassment as a hate crime and assault with criminal possession of a weapon.

Police also recovered scissors and pepper spray.


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