NASHVILLE — A transgender woman's truck was spray-painted with the words "Trump" and torched in her driveway as she and her 3-year-old son were inside their Cookeville, Tenn., home early Saturday morning.
The victim said police told her Monday morning that they are investigating the incident as a hate crime.
A spokesperson with the Putnam County Sheriff's Office confirmed they received a report of the burned and painted truck early Saturday morning and are investigating. But the office did not return a message about whether they are investigating the incident as a hate crime.
Because the incident may have been a hate crime, The Tennessean is identifying the victim as "Elle."
Elle said she heard a noise outside her home at about 3:30 a.m. CT. She went out and saw the door to her 2006 Harley Davidson edition F-150 pickup truck open. Thinking she'd forgotten to lock or close the door, Elle shut the door and went back inside.
About 30 minutes later, she said she heard a horn honk and looked outside to see her truck engulfed in flames.
"Most of (the paint) got burned off, but one of the police officers pointed out that it said 'Trump' on the hood and the back," Elle said. She said she had no idea who would have damaged her vehicle.
“It just breaks my heart every time I walk past the driveway.”
She said her toddler is still frightened.
A disabled veteran, Elle served eight years in the U.S. Army. She was medically retired in 2007 after suffering from a severe brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder while on tour in Iraq in 2004.
While she said she hasn't experienced any discrimination in Cookeville since she came out two years ago, traveling outside of the city has proven dangerous.
"I’ve been in altercations out of town because I’m transgendered," Elle said. "The last altercation was there (in Crossville) when a man took a swing at me in a bathroom."
There are no Hillary Clinton signs on her lawn or in her windows, although she said she is active on social media against Donald Trump. She said a Trump presidency would harm the LGBTQ community.
Elle said she would like to ask the person or people who committed the crime why they did it.
"I’m just trying to live my life," she said. "I wouldn’t hurt anyone."
Follow Ariana Sawyer on Twitter: @a_maia_sawyer
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