NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The PlayPlace at McDonald’s is supposed to be a joyful enclosure where children laugh and play, but on Tuesday night in Queens one such play area was the site of unspeakable horror.
As CBS 2’s Hazel Sanchez reported Wednesday, police have been looking for a suspect who they say sexually assaulted a 4-year-old girl in a PlayPlace at the McDonald’s in the Jamaica section of the borough. The PlayPlace has been closed ever since.
On Wednesday night, police were combing the neighborhood and blanketing the streets with flyers bearing a surveillance image of the face of a man they said was the brazen child predator.
Parents and customers inside the McDonald’s at 181-25 Hillside Ave. were outraged.
“What he did is horrible – disgusting person,” said Rudolph Thurman of Jamaica.
“My blood is boiling at this point. It’s not even about stomach turning,” said McDonald’s customer Katherine Schillingford. “I’m totally angry.”
“It brings tears to your eyes, something like that,” parent Omar Lawrence told CBS 2’s Tony Aiello.
It happened around 8:30 p.m. Tuesday. Police said the suspect assaulted the girl inside the tubular play structure.
Sources said the victim and her brother were playing inside when the suspect carefully positioned himself in a way their mother could not see him, CBS 2’s Weijia Jiang reported.
The little girl ignored him at first, but then he grabbed her and started attacking, according to sources.
The little girl alerted her mother, who went to investigate, sources said. She saw the suspect and tried to grab him, but she could not keep her grip on him as he ran past her to escape.
The thought sickened many parents, including Laarni Hazel – the mother of two children, ages 4 and 8.
“Oh my God! I can’t imagine, I can’t imagine,” she said. “I don’t know where the parent was. But that is really kind of scary.”
Lana Mills, the mother of a 5-year-old girl, said there’s more blame to go around.
“The first thing is, where are her parents? They should be supervising her when they’re in there,” Mills said. “Second of all, a man shouldn’t be allowed in there if he doesn’t have kids. Did he have kids? Why was he in there? Was there supervision from McDonald’s?”
Sofia Ali of Jamaica said she does not believe the PlayPlace at McDonald’s is safe.
“I don’t leave them alone in that McDonald’s place,” she said.
This was not the first child attacked in that very McDonald’s playground. Police said a man sexually assaulted a 9-year-old girl there in March.
Investigators on Wednesday were looking into a possible connection.
In April of last year, the same McDonald’s was the scene of a brazen armed robbery. The gunman locked employees in the freezer, Aiello reported.
Customers said that’s when a security guard was hired.
“Whenever I come there’s always security,” parent Charles Pope said, but added he did wonder where the security was on Tuesday.
Police said private security was on duty Tuesday night, but that didn’t stop the suspect.
The suspect was captured on surveillance video inside the restaurant. Police describe him as being between 18 and 30 years old with a medium skinned complexion. He was wearing a brown or dark purple short-sleeved Polo shirt, faded black or dark blue jeans, white sneakers, and had a bandage or lump on his forehead.
Local leaders Wednesday night were urging the community to spread the word about this sick man, so no other child will be victimized.
“Talk to the people in their building. Talk to the people in their community. Talk to people in their congregation. Send out emails. Do whatever we can,” said City Councilman James Gennaro (D-24th.) “This is how we help the police do their job.”
The owner of the franchise released a statement saying, “This type of behavior is not tolerated at our restaurants. The safety of our customers is our top priority. As this is under police investigation, it would be inappropriate to comment further.”
Anyone with information about the incident is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-577-TIPS (8477), visit the Crime Stoppers website at www.nypdcrimestoppers.com or text tips to 274637 (CRIMES) then enter TIP577.
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