The lawyer of a man suspected of brutally beating a transgender woman claims his client was acting in self-defense.
Nicol Shakhnazaryan, 21, pleaded not guilty Monday to charges that he assaulted 22-year-old Vivian Diego in the Hollywood neighborhood of Los Angeles, Calif., reports KTLA.
Outside the courtroom, Shakhnazaryan's lawyer told KTLA reporters that he was simply trying to protect himself.
"This was done in self-defense after a weapon was drawn and people were stabbed," said the attorney, who wasn't identified during the news segment. "A box cutter was found with the victim, on the victim at the time."
While the police report does mention a box cutter, which Diego reportedly carried to protect herself, the LAPD would not confirm if anyone had been stabbed during the attack. No charges have been filed against Diego.
The assault took place in the early hours of May 31 when Diego was walking home from her job at Beso Restaurant. Surveillance cameras captured footage of a group of men approaching the victim and talking to her from behind. The encounter escalates into an assault as the men surround Diego and kick her repeatedly before running off.
The LAPD released the footage June 18, along with the announcement of a $25,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of suspects. Two days later, Shakhnazaryan was arrested in Van Nuys. The FBI is helping locate three other suspects, reports the LA Daily News.
WATCH: (warning, disturbing footage)
Virginia Diego, the victim's sister, revealed that Vivian sustained two fractured ribs, a shattered cheekbone and a broken jaw in an earlier interview with CBS2. Her injuries were so severe that she was hospitalized for seven days.
Shakhnazaryan could face eight years if convicted.