NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A sexual predator is on the loose on Staten Island.
As CBS2’s Ali Bauman reported, the neighborhood of West Brighton has been left on edge as police search for a violent attacker who tried to sexually assault four women in separate incidents within an hour early Tuesday morning.
The attacks occurred between 5:45 a.m. and 6:45 a.m. as the morning rush hour was getting underway. All but one of the crime scenes are within a five-minute walk of each other.
“I’ve been here for 10 years and nothing like this ever happened,” said Yasmin Batista of Wets Brighton.
Police said the suspect went up to the victims, who range in age from 14 to 64, and threatened to rape them, CBS2’s Bauman reported.
All of the women put up a fight when the suspect tried grabbing them, police said. In one incident the suspect punched a victim, but she dug her nails into his back and scratched him, Bauman reported.
In each incident, the man fled before he was able to cause the women any serious physical harm.
All four victims were taken to Richmond University Medical Center. Their injuries included cuts and bruises on their mouths, faces and legs.
According to police, the first victim, 50, was walking her dog on St. Paul’s Avenue when the suspect pulled her to the ground and tried to remove her pants. In that incident, a neighbor scared the assailant away.
“I heard in the morning she yell, ‘Augh! Augh! Augh!’ three times then stops,” a witness said.
The suspect then slapped a 64-year-old woman in the face as she was getting off a bus at Henderson and Westbury avenues, police said.
“Just a piercing scream, but we’ve heard those noises before — but this was different,” said neighbor Rachel Bohnenberger. “It kept going on for a while, then we heard a car.”
Minutes later, the suspect allegedly attacked a 42-year-old woman standing at a bus stop on Hunter Place and Castleton Avenue. He pulled her to the ground, groped her and punched her in the face before fleeing, according to police.
The woman had to tell her boss she was not coming into work Tuesday.
“She’s scared talking to me, ‘Somebody attacked me,’” said Ali Abutair. “(She said): ‘He jumped me and punched me in the face. Now I’m in the ambulance going to the hospital.’”
Police said the suspect groped and forced himself onto a 14-year-old girl as she waited for the bus to go to school on Castleton Avenue and Havenwood Road. She fought back, biting her attacker who fled after punching her in the face, police said.
A worker at a nearby deli said the teen ran into the store crying and asking for help.
“She run in the store and ask for help, ‘Please call the police, somebody tried to rape me.’ Her face was already red like she was crying,” said Nicholas Aguilar. “Scary.”
Late Tuesday afternoon, helicopters and detectives were canvassing all the crime scenes.
Brandi Romaine told CBS2 over Facetime that she was in the store and tried consoling the girl until an ambulance arrived.
“She goes into detail — she says the man took her from behind while she was on her phone, tries to choke her,” Romaine said. “She tried to scream, but couldn’t get nothing out.”
Police said the man tried forcing the teen to perform oral sex.
“She bit down on him and then ran off,” Romaine said.
Residents hope the suspect is caught quickly.
“It does concern me and I wish there was more safety patrol, especially around the school,” said a woman who works at I.S. 61.
Police said the suspect is believed to be in his 20s and was last seen wearing a black track suit with a white stripe. Surveillance photos were released late Tuesday afternoon.
He apparently drove away in a dark-colored sport-utility vehicle.