Teen charged with hate crime - FOX 13 News

Teen charged with hate crime

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TAMPA (FOX 13) -

It's an attempted murder charge made worse by the apparent motive.

"We found through our investigation that the victim was targeted pretty much solely because of his sexual preference," said Sgt. Michael Stout of the Tampa Police Department.

Tampa Police say 16-year-old Tavares Spencer shot the victim in this case because the young man is transgender and identifies as a woman. Luckily, she survived.

She goes by the name "Coko" and says she's proud of who she is.

"I'm very open and very confident about my sexuality," Coko said.

She says she met Spencer in early April through a friend and told him upfront her sexual preference.

She says she decided she didn't really want to hang out with Spencer, but relented after heavy pressure.

"He literally like set me up, because he was calling my phone, back-to-back, back-to-back, back-to-back," Coko said.

Eventually, the two met on April 9 and traveled to a home on Winnie Street North in Tampa.

"He led me through a yard that I didn't know was abandoned," Coko said.

That's where police say he robbed her and shot her.

"I thought I was going to die because when he shot me, it got in my hip and the pain was like in my abdominal, so I was thinking I was going to die and bleed from the inside out," Coko said.

Coko played dead, hoping Spencer wouldn't shoot again. That strategy worked, although police say when she got up, Spencer saw her and shot again -- but he missed.

Investigators say text messages pulled from Spencer's phone led them to upgrade this to a hate crime.

"They were very graphic in nature, he used some derogatory terms in describing the victim that was very specific into his sexuality," said Stoute.

Coko says she's doing better these days and is relieved Spencer is off the streets.

"I can sleep better at night, I really can," Coko said.

Spencer was pretty easy for police to find: he has been behind bars since April 30 on a robbery charge.

Investigators say the 16 year old will be charged as an adult for the attempted murder charge.

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