An online fundraising effort to help pay for the surgeries required to heal Berkeley high school senior Sasha Fleischman, who self-identifies using the term "agender," topped $21,000 in about a day. Jean Elle reports.
The anger is growing. And so are the donations.
An online fundraising effort to help pay for the surgeries required to heal Berkeley high school senior Sasha Fleischman, who self-identifies using the term "agender," topped $21,000 in about a day. Fleischman's skirt was set on fire as the teen slept on an AC Transit bus in Oakland on Monday evening.
On Wednesday, the 18-year-old underwent surgery on his legs at St. Francis Memorial Hospital's burn unit in San Francisco, according to the "Helping Sasha Have a Speedy Recovery" page, which adds he'll require "several surgeries."
"I don't care what he was wearing," cousin Tara Roach, 25, a graduate student at the University of California at Berkeley told NBC Bay Area. "You don't light someone on fire."
Police arrested a 16-year-old Oakland High School junior on Tuesday on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon and mayhem. Alameda County District Attorney spokeswoman Teresa Drenick declined to discuss details with NBC Bay Area on Wednesday after she was asked whether a hate crime enhancement would be charged. Police have not yet said whether what Fleischman was wearing was the motivation behind the fire. But Oakland Police Chief Sean Whent acknowledged that officers were looking into hate as a possible factor.
Oakland police spokeswoman Johnna Watson said the 16-year-old suspect boarded the bus line 57 at 5:20 p.m. near Oakland High School and saw Fleischman, whose given name is Luke, sleeping in a rear seat. Police say he then lit Fleischman's skirt on fire with a lighter. The suspects's identity is being kept private because he s a juvenile. Fleischman tried to put out the flames before other passengers rushed to help. But Fleischman had already suffered second- and third-degree burns.
"This is a horrific crime," Watson said.
Fleischman does not identify as male or female but rather nonbinary gender or agender, and feels comfortable wearing a skirt, according to his mother, Debbie Fleischman, who talked to the Oakland Tribune.
Fleischman came out about two years ago and became politically involved, even trying to get President Obama's attention on the subject. Some people who identify as agender, genderless or genderqueer say they do not identify as male or female and reject a gender binary.
Fleischman attends Berkeley's Maybeck High School, a school of about 100 students that bears the motto "Open Doors, Open Minds."
Maybeck's High School Director Trevor Cralle told NBC Bay Area on Wednesday that the teen is a "spectacular, great, excellent student." He didn't want to say more about Fleischman's gender identity unless he was given permission by the parents.
Fleischman was described to the newspaper as a straight-A student who is applying to universities, including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The teen also has a fascination with public transportation, volunteering at Market Street Railway in San Francisco, his parents said.
Though the teen may not know it, Fleischman has lots of support, from friends and strangers, many decrying the evils and hate in the world.
"Everybody is rooting for you," wrote Diana Robinson, a contributor of $20 to the fund.
"I am so sorry that this happened to you," wrote Donna Marie Smith, who also gave $20. "I pray for a speedy recovery and that we learn to respect and embrace each others differences."
NBC Bay Area's Joe Rosato Jr. contributed to this report.