After an early morning sexual assault this weekend, police announced Monday that they are seeking a man believed to be responsible for four gunpoint rapes in Germantown within the past three months.
At a Monday afternoon press conference, Capt. John Darby of the Philadelphia Police Department’s Special Victims Unit described the incidents, which are primarily occurring near East Chelten Avenue in East Germantown.
Each involves a pre-teen or teenage victim being approached on the street by a single perpetrator armed with a handgun, who forces the young women into nearby alleys or other places of low visibility.
Darby noted that no money was sought in any of the incidents, suggesting that sexual assault was the primary motivator.
“Obviously, we have a volatile situation, and an unsettling situation out there,” said Darby, who added that the victims were threatened by the suspect.
Details of the crimes
The most recent incident occurred on Sunday outside of the Lonnie Young Recreation Center.
At 12:30 a.m., a 17-year-old victim walking in the 1100 block of E. Chelten Ave. was approached by an unknown male believed to be the suspect.
The victim was initially directed to a vehicle at gunpoint, but was instead pushed toward the entrance of the recreation center. While not in the building itself, the victim was sexually assaulted inside the entrance gate, according to Darby.
“This incident clearly indicated we had a pattern,” said Darby.
The first case involved a 12-year-old girl being assaulted at 7:30 a.m. on March 19. The victim, who was waiting for a school bus near Anderson and Price streets, was led at gunpoint into a nearby alley.
On April 23, a 17-year-old victim was walking alone on the 900 block of E. Chelten Ave at 11:30 p.m. when she was approached by a male who produced a gun and forced her into a nearby commercial property where the assault took place. Police also reviewed surveillance footage in which the suspect is seen riding a dark-colored mountain bike.
Then, at 10:40 p.m. on May 19, a 15-year-old female victim was walking home from a friend’s house on the 6000 block of Wister St. when she observed the suspect riding a bike.
While walking past an alley, the same male approached her, brandished a gun and told her not to look at him. He then forced her into the alley where he sexually assaulted her. After the assault, the male fled the area last seen north on Wister Street.
“It clearly shows his intent,” said Darby on Monday. “He knows what he wants to do: He drops that bike and goes right toward the victim.”
While Darby acknowledged variations in the timing of the rapes, he said that it’s clear that the same perpetrator committed all the incidents, given the similarities between statements made to the victims and his appearance.
In each instance, the suspect is described as a roughly 5-foot-9-inch tall black male in his late 20s or early 30s with light complexion and a medium to stocky build. With the exclusion of Sunday’s case, the suspect was seen wearing dark-colored clothing, with his face obscured either by a hooded sweatshirt or a mask.
While Darby would not speculate whether the perpetrator was a neighborhood resident, he indicated that the suspect showed a familiarity with each of the assault locations.
“I’ll put it to you this way: He didn’t just climb out of a hole,” said Darby.
SVU detectives are currently working with detectives in the Northwest Detective Division to determine if there is any commonality between these assaults and other crimes occurring recently in the Northwest.
In addition, forensic evidence is being processed to look for the DNA evidence from the offender.
Anyone with information is asked to call the Special Victims unit at (215) 685-3251 or 911. Additionally, tips can be submitted via text to PPD TIP (773847) or through the department’s website.
In the meantime, Darby cautioned residents of the immediate area to employ extra caution.
“We want this guy off the street,” he said.