Rape alert’s tim­ing de­bated

Some de­cry po­lice for wait­ing; chief says ty­ing cases took time

The Dallas Morning News - - FRONT PAGE - By TANYA EISERER and SCOTT GOLD­STEIN Staff Writ­ers

Dal­las Po­lice Chief David Brown on Wed­nes­day de­fended the tim­ing of his depart­ment’s warn­ing that a se- rial rapist may be on the prowl near Fair Park, say­ing it wasn’t un­til Tues­day that de­tec­tives con­nected the first two rapes in June to five that oc­curred more re­cently.

The chief spoke as an eighth vic­tim came for­ward Wed­nes­day, say­ing she had been at­tacked Aug. 28. Po­lice have re­quested ex­pe­dited anal­y­sis of DNA sam­ples, formed a task force, ramped up po­lice pres­ence and sched­uled a com­mu­nity meet­ing for Thurs­day evening.

“My mother lives in this neigh­bor­hood, and I can as­sure you this depart­ment will do any and ev­ery­thing pos­si­ble to catch this sus-

pect,” Brown said.

The de­ci­sion to hastily call a news con­fer­ence Tues­day night to an­nounce that there had been seven rapes since June 22 ig­nited a flurry of crit­i­cism from City Coun­cil mem­bers, rape vic­tims’ ad­vo­cates and com­mu­nity mem­bers who said po­lice should have alerted the pub­lic much sooner. Some won­dered if the re­sponse would have been the same if the as­saults had oc­curred north of In­ter­state 30.

‘A height­ened threat’

“Why did it have to be proved that it’s a se­rial rapist” be­fore warn­ing the com­mu­nity? asked Gwen­dolyn Jones, founder of ARISE! In­ter­na­tional, a sup­port group for sex­ual as­sault vic­tims that serves parts of south­ern Dal­las County. “They should have, in my opin­ion, in­formed the pub­lic that there was a height­ened threat in that neigh­bor­hood.”

City Coun­cil mem­ber Carolyn Davis, who rep­re­sents that part of the city, said she wasn’t briefed on the as­saults un­til Wed­nes­day morn­ing. She said po­lice told her they hadn’t been able to reach her Tues­day.

Af­ter speak­ing with Brown on Wed­nes­day, she said the pub­lic should have been alerted in June.

“They should have put it out the time it hap­pened with the first two in­di­vid­u­als,” Davis said. “We have to do a bet­ter job.”

Deputy Chief Michael Cole­man, com­man­der of the south­east patrol di­vi­sion, said Wed­nes­day that of­fi­cers are now go­ing door to door cir­cu­lat­ing fliers. Po­lice also have alerted crime watches and asked churches to spread the word.

Po­lice have stepped up pa­trols and are de­ploy­ing plain­clothes of­fi­cers in the vicin­ity.

‘We are out there’

“We want the cit­i­zens to be com­fort­able that we are out there and that we are do­ing our jobs,” Cole­man said. “Any leads that come in are be­ing im­me­di­ately fol­lowed up.”

The at­tacks have been sim­i­lar: A man wield­ing a gun ap­proaches a woman, typ­i­cally in the early morn­ing. He de- mands money. He forces her into a va­cant lot or wooded area and rapes her.

He’s de­scribed as black, 25 to 30 years old and weigh­ing 180 to 200 pounds. He cov­ers his face and some­times wears oval, gold-rimmed pre­scrip­tion glasses. Wit­nesses have said he drove a gray four-door Honda Civic and a gray older Volvo with tinted win­dows.

The first re­ported as­sault oc­curred June 22 on Metropoli­tan Av­enue. The next oc­curred June 30 about two miles away on Mal­colm X Boule­vard.

Po­lice said those cases were not im­me­di­ately and def­i­nitely linked. More than seven weeks passed be­fore the next re­ported rapes. In­ves­ti­ga­tors think the at­tacker may have been off the streets, pos­si­bly in jail, dur­ing that time.

The rapes re­sumed Aug. 20 when two women were at­tacked on Spring Av­enue. Four more rapes were re­ported in quick suc­ces­sion over 11 days.

But po­lice of­fi­cials said they didn’t de­cide they prob­a­bly had a se­rial rapist on their hands un­til Tues­day, two days af­ter an­other rape on Spring Av­enue.

Too trau­ma­tized to talk

Brown said one rea­son for the de­lay was that rape vic­tims are of­ten in shock and not ready for some time to talk to de­tec­tives. In­ves­ti­ga­tors still had been able to talk to only two of the vic­tims as of Tues­day, po­lice said.

“We have to give them time to where they’re com­fort­able to come for­ward with that in­for- ma­tion,” Brown said.

Court­ney Un­der­wood, co­founder of the Dal­las Area Rape Cri­sis Cen­ter, said she didn’t see why it mat­tered whether the at­tacks were con­nected since po­lice knew vi­o­lent sex­ual as­saults were go­ing on in a con­cen­trated area.

“Let­ting the com­mu­nity know is some­thing that should have hap­pened long ago, and it’s scary that they didn’t,” Un­der­wood said.

South and north

Somone Reese, a South Dal­las res­i­dent, said she couldn’t help but won­der if the de­lay in telling the pub­lic had some­thing to do with where the rapes hap­pened.

“They prob­a­bly didn’t be­cause it’s South Dal­las and that would have seemed com­mon or some­thing,” Reese said.

Brown said: “We’re not treat­ing south­ern Dal­las any dif­fer­ently than we’re treat­ing north­ern Dal­las. … We’re a lit­tle of­fended by that con­jec­ture that we might be.”

Cole­man, the po­lice com­man­der over the area, also de­fended the tim­ing of the pub­lic an­nounce­ment.

“We want to make sure when we put out in­for­ma­tion that it’s ac­cu­rate,” he said. To do oth­er­wise would be a dis­ser­vice, he added.

Un­nerved, on guard

Those who work and live in the area say the as­saults have them un­nerved and on guard.

“Th­ese crimes are a very ter­ri­fy­ing and dev­as­tat­ing thing to this area,” said Karen Dud­ley, pas­tor of Dal­las In­ter­na­tional Street Church. “This man could be within our com­mu­nity, sit­ting with us on our porches.”

Ad­j­woa Hogue, 22, who works in her fam­ily’s store in the area, said the alert has prompted her to change her rou­tine.

“I used to jog in the early morn­ings in Fair Park,” she said. “I’m now at a gym in­stead.”

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