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Teen Charged as Adult for Allegedly Burning Berkeley Student on Bus

By Bay City News
Thursday November 07, 2013 - 10:30:00 PM

A 16-year-old boy suspected of lighting another teen on fire on an AC Transit bus on Monday evening is being charged as an adult, Alameda County prosecutors announced today. 

The suspect, Richard Thomas, has been charged with aggravated mayhem and felony assault resulting in serious bodily injury, according to the Alameda County District Attorney's Office. 

Thomas also faces hate-crime clauses on both counts, prosecutors said. He is scheduled to be arraigned this afternoon at the Wiley Manuel Courthouse in Oakland. 

The victim in the crime was 18-year-old Luke "Sasha" Fleischman, whose clothing was lit on fire while the Berkeley student slept in the back of an AC Transit bus. 

The crime occurred at about 5:20 p.m. Monday as the bus traveled near MacArthur Boulevard and Ardley Avenue, about a block from Interstate Highway 580. 

A probable cause statement signed by Oakland police Officer Anwawn Jones stated that during a police interview after the crime, Thomas told investigators he lit the fire because he was homophobic. 

Fleischman, a student at Berkeley's Maybeck High School, suffered severe second- and third-degree burns and was taken to the burn center at St. Francis Memorial Hospital in San Francisco. 

In a statement today, District Attorney Nancy O'Malley called the crime senseless and said Fleischman was an "entirely innocent victim." 

"The intentional and callous nature of the crime is shocking and will not be tolerated in our community. Our thoughts remain with the victim and the victim's family in wishing for a full recovery from the extensive burns suffered as a result of this crime," she said. 

A fundraising web page was set up to help cover Fleischman's medical costs, and as of this afternoon, 512 donors had contributed a total of $21,250. The site can be accessed at