QUEENS, N.Y. — A Queens woman with a lengthy rap sheet has been charged with a hate crime in an August attack on a Black jogger that was caught on camera.
In the footage, a woman identified by New York City police officials as Lorena Delaguna can be heard telling the female jogger to go back to Africa and calling her the N-word.
Delaguna, 53, is charged with attempted assault as a hate crime and aggravated harassment, according to Queens County District Attorney Melinda Katz.
“In addition to allegedly yelling the N-word, the defendant in this case is also accused of throwing a bottle in an attempt to strike the victim,” Katz said in a statement. “Crimes like this, which are fueled by hate, are in a special category for a reason. No one should have to endure being called a vile slur or being attacked simply because of the color of their skin, their religion or who they love.”
The victim, Tiffany Johnson, wrote on Facebook last week that she had no idea anyone was recording when the Aug. 17 incident took place. She wrote that she had gone for a jog and was minding her own business when Delaguna targeted her.
The footage begins with Delaguna walking down a sidewalk, drinking from a bottle. Johnson jogs by in a crosswalk and Delaguna, unprompted, flings the bottle at the runner.
The glass shatters at Johnson’s feet, splashing her with liquid.
“Oh, (expletive),” one of the people recording the footage says. “Did you get that?”
“Get out!” Delaguna screams at Johnson, who stopped in the intersection when the bottle broke. “Get the (expletive) out!”
“What’s the problem?” Johnson asks.
Delaguna continues to scream at the startled jogger, following her for a block and hurling threats.
“Why aren’t you in Africa, (expletive) (N-word)!” she shouts angrily.
Watch the footage below. Warning: It contains explicit language.
When the footage turned up on social media last week, it caught the attention of the New York Police Department’s Hate Crimes Task Force. An investigation led to Delaguna’s arrest on Monday.
Johnson expressed relief that Delaguna had been charged.
“The hatred is real,” Johnson wrote in a Facebook update. "My freedom, my time, my humanity matters. My body matters.
“I hope this helps to raise awareness to a real issue.”
She ended the update with the hashtag #runningwhileblack.
The hashtag, and Black people’s concerns for their safety while out jogging, was thrust to the forefront after Ahmaud Arbery, 25, was shot and killed Feb. 23 as he ran through a predominantly white neighborhood near Brunswick, Georgia. The killing, which was recorded, remained under wraps until the footage came to light in May.
His alleged killers, father and son Gregory and Travis McMichael, claimed they suspected Arbery of burglary. Footage from that day, a fraction of which has been seen publicly, shows that the McMichaels and a third man, who was filming the encounter, chased Arbery for more than four minutes before the shooting.
Arbery managed to get away several times before the McMichaels and William “Roddie” Bryan Jr. boxed him in with their trucks. As Arbery tried to run around Travis McMichael’s truck, McMichael shot him three times with a shotgun at point-blank range.
Arbery stumbled away and collapsed on the road, where he died.
Both McMichaels are charged with murder and aggravated assault. Bryan is charged with murder and criminal attempt to commit false imprisonment.
Delaguna, who is being held in the Rose M. Singer Center on Rikers Island, faces up to seven years in prison if she is convicted of the attack on Johnson.
According to the New York Daily News, Delaguna has an extensive criminal history that includes 10 felony convictions and 23 arrests. Her arrests included charges for burglary, menacing and graffiti.
Delaguna was arraigned via video on Tuesday, at which time Queens Criminal Court Judge Jeffrey Gershuny ordered her to undergo a psychiatric evaluation.
“There is a mental health component here, and that’s all the court is going to say on the matter,” Gershuny said, according to the Daily News.
Delaguna’s attorney, Samantha Diaz, argued that, because the bottle did not strike Johnson, she did not believe harm had been demonstrated in the case.
“Harm does not have to be cuts and scratches,” Gershuny said, according to the newspaper. “I find that in this case where the defendant is alleged to throw a glass bottle ... and then (for the victim) to be yelled at, be threatened and followed, I find that’s harm directed to an identifiable person.”
© 2020 Cox Media Group