Jogger attacked, dragged into wooded area in Central Park

Wednesday, October 12, 2016
Woman mugged, victim of attempted sex assault in Central Park
Dray Clark reporting live

UPPER EAST SIDE, Manhattan (WABC) -- Police are investigating a brutal attack and attempted sexual assault inside Central Park, along with another robbery that occurred a short time later.

The violent incident happened around 10:40 p.m. Monday at 107th Street and East Drive, with the 28-year-old victim nearly raped in a wooded area.

The East Drive loop is popular with runners and cyclists during the day, but many runners say they wouldn't feel safe there at night. That includes Diana Calantoni, who was on it Tuesday morning training for the marathon.

"It's a bit desolate up in this area," she said. "There are people around, but when it's dark, someone can quickly grab you. So I really try to be cognizant of that and just stay on the lower loop at that time."

The victim, Eyewitness News has learned, was moving from west to east in the park along the East Drive and was at about 107th Street when police say she was approached by a male who came up behind her and threw her to the ground, dragging her into a wooded area.

There, he stole her phone and keys, and police say he started to walk away before turning back and attempting to sexually assault her. She was able to flee the area.

"He then left the park," said NYPD Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce. "We are now searching for video of people leaving the park, searching the subway in particular to see if he went down that location."

Tim Fleischer has the latest details.

"I never come to the park when it's dark," said one person who did not want to be identified. "That's the safest thing to do."

The victim was treated at St. Luke's Hospital. The suspect is described as a black male in his mid 30s, scruffy with a thin build, possibly wearing a black jacket.

In a separate mugging, a bicyclist was robbed of his cell phone on East Drive near East 95th Street just after midnight. Police say he was surrounded by up to five teens, one of whom told him to get off the bicycle before punching him in the face.

He was knocked off his bike and onto the ground, and his iPhone 7 fell out of his pocket. One of the men spotted it and grabbed it before the group fled on foot.

"I didn't really understand what was happening at first," said the victim, Jacob Angstreich. "He just hit me on the side of the head and knocked me off the bike."

No arrests were made in either incident, and they do not appear to be connected.

The NYPD has responded to 15 robberies in the park this year, down 35 percent over last year. Still, many say they would not be out at that time of night unless they were with other people.

"I probably wouldn't be out here at that hour," runner Jason Isanberg said. "It's just not good to anywhere that's isolated where there's not a lot of people."

Nickki Fitzgerald sometimes walks her dog Diego that late at night in that area of the park.

"I pay attention and I don't carry my cell phone or nothing with me," she said. "I have just my keys, but I also have something in my pocket to protect me."

While police say there has been an uptick in crime in Central Park, people need to keep their wits.

"They want to get out and exercise, sometimes it's difficult to find a partner but you definitely have to be aware of your surroundings," said NYPD Commissioner James O'Neill.