MASSAPEQUA, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — A mother out for a walk was assaulted this week, in a park in Massapequa, Long Island that is popular with joggers and bikers and is generally considered safe.
As CBS 2’s Jennifer McLogan reported, park lovers were stunned by the brutality of the random crime in the peaceful Massapequa preserve.
After learning of the attack, Bonnie Petrone jogged with a companion in the preserve on Wednesday.
“I am back here today, and I brought my German shepherd,” Petrone said.
Around 10:15 a.m. Tuesday, the 46-year-old victim was walking her dog on the path in the preserve near Parkside Boulevard when the three suspects approached her from behind on BMX bicycles, police said.
One suspect knocked the woman to down onto the dirt path, sending her iPhone flying, police said. The suspect picked up the iPhone, but threw it into a bush as all three suspects biked off to Parkside Boulevard, police said.
They were last seen pedaling away down Parkside Boulevard, adjacent to a preserve entrance.
“We believe they all know each other and are all local, neighborhood local kids, and they all were on bicycle,” said Nassau County police Detective Michael Bitsko.
Residents said the incident was very much out of the ordinary for the park.
“They sounded like young kids; they were yelling something out of the weeds,” said Massapequa resident Frank Farinella. “A girl drove by, and I drove by, and it just was very out of character.”
“It is very unusual,” added Massapequa resident Andrea Barrett. “And I feel safe here, because I’m riding in everybody’s backyards. This path goes through people’s backyards, basically.”
Community leader Richard Schary described the preserve as 423 acres of unspoiled beauty, with state and county bicycle paths and hiking trails leading from the south to the North Shore.
“I’ve been the president of this organization for 15 years, and we’ve never really had a serious incident here,” said Schary, president of the group Friends of the Preserve. “Everybody that comes here loves it. We have over a quarter million visitors a year.”
Schary said teens are usually in the park helping.
“We have a very tight-knit community, and it’s very disturbing to hear that (the attack happened),” said Massapequa resident Anastasia Pantelias.
“We should find the person who attacked her and I’m just really sad that it happened,” added Massapequa resident Steve Sattanino.
After being treated for an elbow injury and trauma, the victim was released from an area hospital. The hunt for her assailants continued Wednesday afternoon.
Two of the suspects were described as being about 17 years old with brown hair, while the third was described as being about 19 years old with dark brown hair and a sleeve tattoo on his right arm. The third suspect was last seen wearing blue jeans.
Detectives asked anyone with information to contact the Nassau County Crime Stoppers at (800) 244-TIPS.
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