Police search for person of interest after woman raped in Central Park near Swan Lake

UPPER EAST SIDE, Manhattan (WABC) -- Police have released photos of a person of interest they want to question after a woman was raped in Central Park on Thursday morning.

Two sex assaults were reported Thursday morning -- one in Central Park and one a few miles away. After initial speculation that the attacks could be linked, police later determined they were not.

In the first assault, a woman in her 20s said she was grabbed from behind and put in a chokehold at East 62nd Street and Fifth Avenue, near Swan Lake and Wollman Rink, just after 7:20 a.m.

She lost consciousness and awoke with cuts, abrasions and bruises to her arms and chin.

The suspect fled the scene.

The woman was taken to Mount Sinai West Hospital for treatment and is in stable condition.

About 45 minutes after the first assault was reported, another woman said she was sexually assaulted on a running path on Randall's Island across the footbridge from 103rd Street and FDR Drive.

The 54-year-old victim was knocked her to the ground and choked around 7:40 a.m., and the suspect then attempted to remove her pants.

Police responded, witnesses pointed the suspect out to the officers, and the 38-year-old man was taken into custody.

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The victim was being treated for bruises to her face at Mt. Sinai Morningside, where she is in stable condition

Police say the suspect in that case, Howard Shaw, is a Level 3 sex offender who was just released on parole Tuesday after serving nine years in state prison on assault and sex abuse charges.

Shaw was charged Thursday with attempted rape, strangulation and forcible touching.

Sexual assaults are uncommon in Central Park. But Thursday's is the sixth sexual assault reported in the 840-acre park so far this year-compared to two by this time last year.

Anyone with information is asked to call the NYPD's Crime Stoppers Hotline at 1-800-577-TIPS (8477) or for Spanish, 1-888-57-PISTA (74782).

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