(NEW YORK) — A man is in custody in connection with the brutal daylight rape and robbery of a 73-year-old woman in New York’s Central Park, according to police.
The elderly birdwatcher and photographer was in the park when she said the incident occurred around 11:50 a.m. Wednesday. According to media reports, the man approached the victim and said, “Do you remember me?” He then attacked her.
The New York Police Department would not release details about the person in custody, saying that no one has been charged. Police would not comment on whether the “person of interest” is the man shown in park surveillance footage.
College professor and birdwatcher Eric Ozawa, 34, found the beaten woman in the park. He entered the park around 11:30 a.m. on 72nd Street near the park’s famed Strawberry Fields, designed as a memorial for John Lennon, who was killed at the nearby Dakota apartment building.
“As I was working my way along that path, I could see up ahead what looked like somebody lying down and I initially just assumed it was somebody sleeping,” Ozawa told ABC News. “All I could see were someone’s legs, from the knees down, and their feet.”
As he moved closer, he looked in that direction again and was surprised to see that someone was sitting up and gesturing for him to come over.
“It was a small woman who, as I approached, I saw her face was badly beaten and swollen and then she told me that she had been raped and I took out my phone to call 911,” he said.
When he got the police on the phone, the woman said that she wanted to speak to them.
“She wanted to speak to the police. She was ready to do that,” he said. “She was incredibly lucid and together, given the circumstances.”
Ozawa said the woman was not crying or panicking, and he thought she may have been in shock.
The woman also said that the suspect had taken her bag, according to ABC News’ New York station WABC.
Authorities believe the woman may have seen the alleged attacker before the assault.
“He was doing some sort of…some act, may have been exposing himself or something along those lines,” New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said at a news conference on Wednesday. “She, we believe, may have taken a picture of him and he then assaulted her.”
On Wednesday evening, police released surveillance video that showed a dark-haired man walking outside the park in a black t-shirt. The man had a backpack on his back and another in his hand. Police believe one of the backpacks belonged to the victim.
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