What to Know
Police have arrested a man suspected of viciously beating and trying to rape a 37-year-old woman walking home on the Upper West Side
A nearby doorman ran over to take a photo of the suspect, intending to hand it over as evidence to police, and the flash startled the man
The suspect ran off; the victim was taken to the hospital with a fractured skull. Desmond Smith was arrested Thursday night
A 32-year-old man has been arrested in the vicious beating and sex attack on a woman walking near Central Park -- an ambush in which she was thrown to the sidewalk, stomped on, bitten and violated before a doorman heard her cries.
Desmond Smith faces charges of strangulation, attempted rape, sex abuse and other crimes in the attack on the 37-year-old woman after she got out of an Uber near Central Park West around 11 p.m. on the Fourth of July.
Sources say Smith allegedly accosted the woman and she gave him money, hoping he would leave her alone.
The suspect became enraged, throwing her to the sidewalk and stomping on her head with his feet. He also bit her head, authorities say. The victim begged him to stop, but he allegedly kept attacking her, making sexually explicit comments as he ripped off her clothing, authorities say. The suspect got spooked when a doorman working nearby heard the woman's cries and ran off.
He was arrested less than 24 hours after the attack. It wasn't clear if he had an attorney.
One witness who asked to remain anonymous described a horrifying scene.
"I saw a girl was lying on the floor, and the guy was kicking her head," the witness said. "The guy ripped the girl's skirt and underwear... there was a pool of blood and ripped clothes on the floor."
The doorman who heard the woman's screams, Ernest Pjetri, ran over and says he saw the man on top of her, punching her. He took a photo, intending for it to be evidence for police, but the flash alerted the suspect -- and surveillance video shows the suspect then starts chasing the doorman across street.
"I was telling him, 'Stay away from me, stay away from me, please just stay away from me,'" said Pjetri.
Pjetri said the suspect pushed him before he was able to run into the safety of his building, then the suspect took off. Pjetri said when he went to look for the woman, she was no longer there. He was glad, though, that he was able to interrupt the attack.
"Thank God he was coming after me and he left her," he said.
The victim was taken to a local hospital with a fractured skull. She was in stable condition, police said.
Police said Smith has a lengthy criminal record, with his most recent arrest happening last May. He said nothing to reporters as he was led from the police station in handcuffs Thursday night; he just shook his head no when asked if he was trying to rape the victim. It wasn't clear if he had an attorney.