A self-identified “agender” Berkeley high school student who was set on fire has received over $21,000 in donations thanks to an online fundraising effort.
Luke “Sasha” Fleischman, 18, was sleeping on an AC Transit bus in Oakland Monday evening when his skirt was set on fire, according to NBC Bay Area.
Police arrested a 16-year-old Oakland High School junior Tuesday for assault with a deadly weapon and mayhem. The teen is accused of boarding the bus line 57 and setting Fleischman’s skirt on fire with a lighter.
Fleischman, a senior at Maybeck High School, tried to put out the flames before other passengers rushed to help. The victim suffered second and third-degree burns, police said.
The 18-year-old underwent surgery on his legs Wednesday at St. Francis Memorial Hospital.
“I don’t care what he was wearing,” Fleischman’s cousin Tara Roach, 25, told NBC Bay Area. “You don’t light someone on fire.”
The victim’s mother, Debbie Fleishman told the Oakland Tribune that Sasha does not identify as male or female but rather a “nonbinary gender or agender.”
The “Helping Sasha Have a Speedy Recovery” webpage says the teen will require “several surgeries.” The online fundraising page stated Wednesday that “per the family’s request,” the organizers would end “the fundraiser shortly after the $20,000 mark.” The effort raised over $21,000 in one day.
When asked if the incident would be considered a hate crime, Alameda County District Attorney spokeswoman Teresa Drenick declined to comment. Police have not yet said whether what Fleischman was wearing was the motivation behind the attack.
The suspect’s identity has not been released by authorities.
Although no longer accepting donations, the web page is still receiving well wishes, comments and support from people.
One commentator on the site wrote, “PLEASE re-open the fund! Many more would like to help, and I am sure there will be future expenses. I am heartbroken for Sasha.”
Tiffany Woods, transgender programs manager at Tri-City Health Center in Fremont and the liaison for the transgender community with the Oakland Police Department told the Tribune that this was not an isolated incident. Transgender and gender nonconforming individuals experience acts of violence regularly.
“Many never get reported,” Woods said. “The recent horrific acts of violence in Oakland against young gender nonconforming individual while riding a public bus as well as the murder of [transgender woman] Brandy Martell in 2012 are everyday reminders of how deadly and pervasive anti-transgender bias is.”
Fleischman’s parents described the teen as a straight-A student who routinely wore skirts on the bus but had never experienced a violent incident until now.
Debbie Fleischman told the Tribune that Sasha would require massive skin grafting and a long recovery.
Sources: NBC Bay Area, Oakland Tribune, Fundly.com