Suspect questioned in NYC groping attacks

August 9, 2011 2:14:39 PM PDT
Police say a suspect is being questioned in the string of Upper East Side gropings.

The news stunned Upper East Side residents; the man police accuse of groping at least a dozen women in Manhattan since January has been captured.

In fact, he was caught just steps from where wanted signs with his image are plastered.

"I'm shocked that he was right here," said a resident.

The owner of an upscale restaurant says that the 18-year-old worked as a dishwasher and prep cook there for the past six months.

The owner of Antonucci says he first saw the surveillance images last week and immediately recognized the young man.

He says since the teen had quit weeks before and left no contact information he never thought to call police.

"That's pretty sick, that's pretty sick," Antonucci said.

Antonucci thinks the accusations against his former employee are sick.

He says there's no doubt the man arrested overnight at his father's house in Queens is this man shown in surveillance pictures.

But, he doubts the teen he calls a "sweet, calm little kid" would be capable of such lewd crimes like reaching under women's skirts, and following one woman into her building and trying to rape her.

Customers are also in disbelief.

"I've met most of the staff there and I'm just not exactly sure that the allegations are true," a customer said.

But for nervous Upper East Side residents news that this could be the end of these attacks provides an overdue sense of relief.

"I'm happy he's in custody right now," said one resident.

"I think it's good, but I can't believe it took so long to notice him," said another.

The man was taken to a Manhattan police precinct, where his victims were expected to go for lineups today.

Charges against the man, including sex abuse, forcible touching and attempted rape, are pending.

Police say a building superintendent in the neighborhood recognized him from the widely distributed subway surveillance video.

The superintendent told a transit officer he knew, assigned to Transit District 4, that he believed the "Upper East Side groper" worked at a restaurant at his building.