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 started the suspect
- The suspect ran off; the victim was taken to the hospital with a fractured skull. Desmond Smith was arrested Thursday night
UPDATE: New Details Revealed in Sex Attack Near Central Park
A woman was viciously beaten and nearly raped near Central Park before the suspect was suddenly spooked and ran off the night of July 4 before being captured less than 24 hours later, police say.
The 37-year-old victim had gotten out of an Uber near Central Park West and was walking home near West 84th Street at around 11 p.m. Wednesday when a stranger accosted her, according to sources close to the investigation. She gave the man money, apparently in an attempt to get him to leave her alone.
When the woman ignored him, the enraged suspect threw her to the ground and punched, stomped and hit her about the face and head, then started taking off her clothing, police said.
One witness who asked to remain anonymous told News 4, "I saw a girl was lying on the floor, and the guy was kicking her head."
"The guy ripped the girl's skirt and underwear... there was a pool of blood and ripped clothes on the floor. It was a horrifying scene," the witness said.
A nearby doorman says he heard the woman's screams and ran over to see the man on top of the victim, punching her. The doorman, Ernest Pjetri, took a photo, intending for it to be evidence for police but surveillance video shows what happened after the camera's flash alerted the suspect: he 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 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.
After alerting the public Thursday, police said Thursday night that they have arrested a suspect in the attack: 32-year-old Desmond Smith, who lives in a shelter a block from the attack, is facing charges of attempted rape, strangulation, sexual abuse and assault. Police said he has a lengthy criminal record with his most recent arrest happening last May.
It wasn't immediately clear if he had an attorney who could comment on the charges. 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.