The mother of an 18-year-old whose clothing was lit on fire on a bus to East Oakland says the second- and third-degree burns the teen suffered in the attack will require massive skin grafting.
The victim, Luke Fleischman, a senior at Maybeck High School in Berkeley, was rushed to a hospital burn unit with major buns Monday after being set afire while asleep on an AC Transit bus, authorities said.
A day later, police arrested a 16-year-old Oakland High School student in connection with the attack. The student, whose identity was not released, was removed from class and arrested on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon and mayhem, authorities said.
"This is a horrific crime," Johnna Watson of the Oakland Police Department told KTVU-TV.
About two years ago, the victim's mother, Debbie Fleischman, said her son started identifying himself as non-gender, neither male nor female. The student, who also goes by the name Sasha, was politically active on the issue of nonbinary gender.
"He likes to wear a skirt. It's his statement. That's how he feels comfortable dressing," Debbie Fleischman told the Oakland Tribune.
Police said the suspect boarded the bus near Oakland High School, saw Fleischman sitting in the back and lit the victim's skirt on fire. Fleischman woke up and tried unsuccessfully to put the fire out, but was helped by other passengers who rushed to his aid.
The bus driver, who did not immediately realize what was happening, pulled over and everyone, including the suspect, got out. Oakland used witness accounts and video footage from a mounted camera on the bus to track down the suspect.
Fleischman will require "several surgeries" at St. Francis Memorial Hospital, according to an online fundraising page set up after the attack. In an outpouring of support, hundreds of people had pledged more than $20,000 as of Thursday morning to help pay for Fleischman's recovery and medical bills.
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