8th Dallas rape victim comes forward as officials question police response

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by MATT GOODMAN and REBECCA LOPEZ

WFAA

Posted on September 4, 2013 at 6:21 PM

Updated Wednesday, Sep 4 at 6:21 PM

DALLAS -- An eighth woman has come forward to say she was raped in the Fair Park area, a day after Dallas police revealed that a serial rapist has been targeting women there since June. 

On Tuesday night, Maj. Jeff Cotner, head of the department’s crimes against persons division, told reporters that seven women were raped at gunpoint in a pocket south of Fair Park that spans about three square miles. They believe one man is responsible for all the attacks, which have taken place on June 22, June 30, August 20, August 22, August 28, August 30 and September 1. 

The victim who came forward Wednesday was raped on August 28 in the 2600 block of 2nd Ave., Cotner said. 

“She saw the newscast last night, it empowered her, she felt comfortable to come forward and share her story now that other victims have been able to come forward,” Cotner said. 

The women have told investigators similar stories: That a man in his mid 20s to early 30s approaches them at gunpoint and demands money; that he forces them to a vacant or secluded or wooded area and rapes them; that he sometimes wears a T-shirt with basketball shorts and flees in either a gray four door Honda Civic or an older model Volvo with tinted windows. The rapes have all occurred late at night or in the early morning hours. 

Police Chief David Brown said investigators have taken DNA samples from at least one of the crime scenes, the results of which will be expedited by the lab. Since the alert Tuesday night, Cotner said the department has received four tips from the public.

The eight women were attacked in seven instances. The majority of the victims were alone when the man approaches them, the major said. The suspect has, however, targeted one woman who was walking with her older children and raped two women during one incident. 

On Wednesday, two southern Dallas councilmembers raised concerns about why it took seven rapes before police notified the public. Outspoken Councilman Dwaine Caraway, who was previously chair of the city’s Public Safety Committee, said he was concerned that the department prioritized finding a serial attacker who raped three women in the North Dallas neighborhood of Lake Highlands in the spring. 

“When you look at it, you have two (rapes) and all alerts go out. And you have seven and then the councilmember is maybe the last person that’s made aware,” Caraway said Wednesday. “These things are disturbing.” 

Councilwoman Carolyn Davis, who represents the district in which all the rapes have occurred, said she was notified by police at 7:53 p.m. Tuesday night that a serial rapist was targeting her district.

She said she was frustrated about not being so much as clued in before this week; however, she would not say that she felt the rapes in southern Dallas have been handled differently because of race or poverty differences in the two communities. 

“Would I have done it differently? Yes, I wish they’d have put it out, the time it happened with the first two individuals,” she said. “The other five would’ve been saved from that. That was done poorly.” 

Brown and Cotner both aggressively denied that the department was handling this case differently from the one in Lake Highlands. The first rape in southern Dallas occurred on June 22. The next happened on June 30. Then the attacker went silent. The next connected rape was reported eight weeks later on August 22. 

“We did investigate those two first offenses, we worked them as hard we could,” Cotner said. “We weren’t able to corroborate a lot of the circumstances that came about that were initially reported. For example, we didn’t even have a vehicle.” 

That gap, Cotner said, has led investigators to believe the suspect was “off the street” for the weeks between the attacks. Councilwoman Davis also said she was told one of the two first victims refused to cooperate with police, making it difficult for them to connect the rapes. 

“The individual circumstances of those offenses did not lead us to an understanding that we had a serial person working,” Cotner said. “It was not until here in the last week that we recognized that we had the same MO, the same individual using the same tactics. Then we knew that we had a serial.” 

The major said a diverse sampling of the department has been assigned to a task force to find the rapist. He said police would use “every tool in the toolbox, everything we can think of” to catch the predator. He said the department held a meeting after the Lake Highlands rapist was captured to bolster how it responds to these sorts of cases. 

In Lake Highlands, Air 1 frequently aided officers responding to myriad calls while patrol units, both mounted on horses and in vehicles, flooded the neighborhood until the attacker was caught. 

“The model we have in place today is an improved model from what we did back in February and March,” Cotner said. 

In the meantime, the department has scheduled a public safety meeting at 6 p.m. Thursday at the True Lee Missionary Baptist Church at 3907 Bertrand Ave. to update the community on the investigation and solicit help from any witnesses. 

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