NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Police on Wednesday said a Queens woman was nearly raped right in front of her own children, after she hailed what she thought was a livery cab in Upper Manhattan.
As CBS 2’s Don Champion reported, police released a sketch of the attacker on Wednesday. Meanwhile, the entire attack was shown in a graphic surveillance video released by police late Wednesday night.
The terrifying trip started around 2 a.m. Sunday on 207th Street near Tenth Avenue in Inwood, Manhattan. Investigators said the 26-year-old woman was with her three young children – ages 5, 3, and 1 – when she hailed a dark sedan thinking it was a livery cab, police said.
The victim asked to be driven 11 miles to a homeless shelter at the former Pan American Hotel on Queens Boulevard in Elmhurst, Queens, police said.
When they arrived around 2:45 a.m., police said the driver carried out a sick act.
The man drove the woman to the back of the shelter, parked near 51st Avenue and Gorsline Street, and tried to sexually assault the woman, police said.
“It’s something that does not normally happen in this area,” said Tony Valenzuela, who works at a local auto shop. “Normally this area is very quiet, very peaceful.”
But the story gets even worse. Police said as the woman was getting out of the car, the man elbowed her 5-year-old child in the head and forcibly removed her 3-year-old from the vehicle before he sped off.
As CBS 2’s Jessica Schneider reported, the video shows a man lifting a child out of the car and leaving her on the sidewalk.
The mother gets out of the car with a second child, but then gets in a struggle with the man, at which point he elbows one of her kids in the head
Moments later, the man lunges into the vehicle and grabs a third child. He then throws that child from the car onto the sidewalk.
The man then jumps into the driver’s seat and takes off, with the woman still putting up a fight to keep him from leaving the scene.
“It’s very sad, you know,” said Alma Tesfa.
Tesfa said it can be hard to tell which cars are livery cabs in the part of Inwood where the victim was picked up. She said it is one reason she says she doesn’t take any chances.
“Regular cab — a yellow cab — or I call the companies,” said Tesfa, of Washington Heights.
Police said there is no indication the attacker was a licensed livery cab driver.
Investigators said the man is Hispanic and possibly in his 40s. The victim remembered he spoke Spanish, had an earring in his right ear, and had manicured eye brows.
“There’s all kinds of characters out there, and like anything else, you got to be careful,” said Pearl Vaval of Washington Heights.
Two of the victim’s children were treated for minor injuries at Elmhurst Hospital Center after the attack.
Police said he was last seen wearing a dark blue sweat suit with white stripes.
In a statement, representatives from the homeless shelter said they were offering support to the victim and her family.
Anyone with information is asked to call Crime stoppers at 1-800-577-TIPS (8477), visit the Crime stoppers website or text their tips to 274637 (CRIMES) then enter TIP577.
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