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Gang member attacked transgender women in MacArthur Park, prosecutors say

MacArthur Park in 2016.
(Patrick T. Fallon / For The Times )

A 25-year-old whom law enforcement officials say has gang ties was charged with multiple counts of attempted murder Friday in connection with the stabbings of two transgender women in MacArthur Park in recent months, authorities said.

Donoban Fonseca was charged with three counts of attempted murder in connection with attacks spanning from late August to early October, the latter of which sparked widespread outrage in the LGBTQ community.

Fonseca will also face hate crime and gang enhancements, according to a news release issued by the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office. Fonseca is a member of MS-13, according to a law enforcement official with knowledge of the case, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to speak candidly about the ongoing investigation.

On Oct. 4, a 42-year-old woman was seated on a park bench around 9:30 p.m. when she was surrounded by four of five men who said “something to the effect of, ‘We don’t want gays in the park,’” according to LAPD officials. The victim, identified by local activists as Daniela Hernandez, suffered a stab wound to the throat, police said.

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Attack on transgender woman prompts dozens of people to gather at MacArthur Park to call for an end to violence and declare the area a “safe space.”

Though gender identity and sexual orientation are completely different, LGBTQ rights activists say people who show hatred for one or the other often conflate the two.

Fonseca was also charged with participating in the stabbing of a transgender woman in the park on Aug. 21, prosecutors said. Authorities say he also took part in an attack on the same victim on Sept. 1.

Fonseca was scheduled to appear in a downtown courtroom Friday afternoon. It was not immediately clear whether he had an attorney.

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Police arrested Fonseca late Wednesday night, and he was held in lieu of $1-million bail, jail records show.

Fonseca had also been arrested for carrying a “dirk or dagger” in early July, records show, but he was released after prosecutors had to decline a case against him because of an “inadmissible search,” according to Greg Risling, a spokesman for the district attorney’s office.

Los Angeles police officials declined to respond to questions about Fonseca’s prior arrest.

It was not clear whether other suspects are being sought in any of the attacks.

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Hernandez, who is expected to survive, immigrated to the U.S. from El Salvador three years ago, according to Bamby Salcedo, president and CEO of the TransLatina Coalition advocacy group. She had been working as a housekeeper and volunteered with the advocacy group to serve hot meals out of their Wilshire Boulevard offices in recent months, friends said.

“She came to this country running away from the violence she was experiencing in El Salvador, only to come to the United States to almost get killed,” Salcedo said.

The attack came just weeks after the violent robbery of three transgender women in Hollywood in what police also called a hate-driven assault.


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