San Francisco Police Commander Michael Biel announced to hundreds of community members on Wednesday that the City is offering a $25,000 reward in the investigation of two “brutal” sexual assaults that happened on 24th Street. The first assault occurred on Nov. 18, the second on Dec. 8.
“The attacks keep getting worse,” Biel told reporters. “We have someone who is very dangerous to the community.” The police department is working with the FBI on the investigation, he said.
Investigators initially thought the Nov. 18 sexual assault on 24th Street and Potrero Avenue was an isolated incident, Biel said, but police now believe that the suspect is connected to both crimes.
In a video released by SFPD, a man is seen walking by and turning his head as he gets closer to the camera. It’s not clear whether the suspect knew the camera was there, Biel said.
The Fair Oaks Neighborhood Coalition, which has roughly 250 members, demanded a meeting with city officials, the district attorney and the police department to discuss how prevent further assaults, and to show support for the victims.
Following the attacks, the department has dispatched more police, including plainclothes officers, to patrol the area, especially during the hours in which they occurred, between 3 and 6:30 a.m.
“We won’t sleep well at night until we find him,” Biel said.
Present at the meeting were supervisors David Campos and Scott Wiener and District Attorney George Gascon, all of whom urged the community to come forward with any information that could help in the investigation.
“We need to be there for these victims and to make sure that this monster is brought to justice,” Wiener said.
Also present at the meeting was Arie Jongejan, a close friend of the most recent victim, who spoke on her behalf.
“She’s healing quickly, which is a win, but psychologically it’s going to be a long and difficult healing process,” he told the crowd.
Jongejan thanked neighbors who sent cards and letters through the Mission police station, saying that they had lifted the victim’s spirits.
To help the victim with medical costs, the Fair Oaks Neighborhood Coalition set up a fund with Sterling Bank on 24th Street. On Wednesday, residents lined up to donate money.
Jongejan also said that the victim told him that the area in which she was attacked was dark, and more lighting should be put in place, which echoed a request heard from residents at the meeting. The Department of Public Works announced that it will evaluate which trees need to be trimmed to increase visibility. PG&E has also made sure that all street lights are working in the area.
Before the meeting, about 30 neighbors held an emotional candlelight vigil, where they read poems and sang “Amazing Grace.”
Candles were lit and rose petals scattered where the victim was first attacked on 24th Street on Dec. 8, and neighbors retraced the path that the suspect took before sexually assaulting the woman. A resident who attended the vigil said this was their way to reclaim their street and begin the healing process.
“Someone said at the vigil that it shattered the illusion of safety and I think that’s really true,” said a female resident who has lived on Fair Oaks for five years and asked to remain anonymous.
“I really appreciate how we had the vigil where it happened. I think it’s important to remember the victim,” she said.
The Dec. 8 attack happened at about 6:15 a.m. According to police reports, the victim was walking on 24th Street toward the BART station when a man described as 20 to 30 years old, between 5’8″ and 5’9″ tall, and weighing approximately 180 pounds grabbed her from behind. He wrapped his right arm around the victim’s neck in a choke hold and walked her to the 200 block of Fair Oaks, where he sexually assaulted her. Police say the suspect was wearing a black hoodie and baggy dark jeans.
The first attack happened on Nov. 18 between 3 and 4:30 a.m. Police reported that the suspect pursued a woman down 24th Street from South Van Ness Avenue to Potrero. After demanding money from her, which police say she was unable to produce, the suspect grabbed the woman and took her to another location, where she was punched, slapped and sexually assaulted.
As of Dec. 14, there have been 135 sexual assaults in San Francisco, not all of them rapes. In the Mission District, there have been four more rapes reported in November than last month, when the SFPD received a report of only one. In the year to date, 20 cases of rape have been reported in the Mission, the same as in 2010.
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If you have any information about the crimes, contact Inspector Joseph Nannery of the Special Victims Unit at 415-553-1361.