RIVERHEAD, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) – Suffolk County Police are hunting for a man who attacked a woman in broad daylight at a popular outlet mall.
Investigators said the suspect was hiding inside the women’s public bathroom waiting for his victim at 12 noon on Tuesday at the Tanger Outlet Mall in Riverhead.
As CBS 2’s Jennifer McLogan reported, shoppers are on edge and security is out in force following the incident.
“A public bathroom here. To think someone had gone in there to hide out waiting for a woman is just, it is beyond my belief. I am so shocked,” shopper Ronni Krentzman said.
Krentzman said she and her children will no longer use the public restrooms after learning that a 67-year-old woman was attacked
“He was in another stall waiting. She came in, she went into the stall. When she started to come out, he actually grabbed her and then he grabbed her from behind and dragged her to the ground,” Riverhead Town Police Lt. Richard Boden told McLogan.
Screams were heard by another female shopper who rushed into the bathroom and witnessed the frightening crime. The suspect jumped off the victim ran out the door.
Police have not determined if the suspect was attempting to rape or rob his victim, McLogan reported.
“When you get nervous, you can’t always scream. But I would scream and I would try to fight,” shopper Judy Knoll said.
Security and police arrived within minutes and gave chase but the suspect evaded officers and disappeared. K-9 units assisted in a search of the area but were unable to track the suspect.
The victim, who was treated at a local hospital for bruises and trauma, had been shopping with her family but went into the bathroom alone.
“We come here and we use the bathroom all the time but we never use it alone, we always go in with each other,” Sheryl Slomnicki told McLogan.
The mall is protected by surveillance cameras, patrolling security and the nearby Riverhead police force.
“In the 20 years that we’ve been in business in Riverhead, we’ve never had an incident like this occur. We believe it’s an isolated incident,” Tanger Outlets General Manager Janine Nebons told McLogan.
There are 87 bathroom stalls scattered around the massive outlet mall.
“It’s scary, it scared me to death because we shop here all the time. And not just here but in any mall, really, there’s no security in bathrooms, and I mean really, how can there be?” shopper Amanda Varelakis told McLogan.
Security cameras are not allowed in public restrooms due to privacy laws.
However, images of the fleeing suspect were caught on surveillance video. Police were planning to release that footage as they try to track down the suspect.
The hoodie-wearing suspect has only been described as being about 20 years old, clean-shaven and dark-skinned.
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