The suspect in a rape of the 16-year-old Austin teen remains at large and an anonymous donor has put up an award for his capture.
A $10,000 reward has been offered by the donor who lives outside of Austin but saw the case on the local news. The 16-year-old girl, a sophomore at Austin Business Entrepreneurship Academy, was brutally beaten and raped in an alley behind Baba’s Restaurant, 5613 W. Chicago Ave., the night of Sept. 16.
He fled from the alley after the attack and, according to police, was captured on video from a next-door currency exchange security camera. Police are still investigating.
At a community meeting on Tuesday at the Austin YMCA, 501 N. Central, residents and community leaders urged potential witnesses to come forward. The anonymous donor also attended but asked the media not to reveal his identity. He contacted the South Austin Coalition Community Council, a member group of the Austin Safety Net Works, about establishing the reward. He told the roughly 50 people at the evening meeting how affected he was by the case after seeing it on the news and wanted to help.
“I want this person to be caught and want people in the community to be safe,” he said. “People do care from outside the community.”
Sabrina Harris, mother of Ryan Harris, who was raped and murdered in 1998, also attended the meeting to offer support to the girl and her family. Harris, who lives in the Englewood community on the South Side, said a friend called her about the case. Harris wanted to come and let the girl know that what happened wasn’t her fault. She also stressed the community has to come together to get criminals off the street.
“It takes us as a whole to police the community and monitor our kids and other people’s kids,” she said.
Harris was emotional as she talked about the victim, encouraging people to get the word out about her case.
“What I want us to do is make sure this doesn’t get swept under the rug. If you don’t keep a light on this, she’s going to become just another black girl who was raped,” Harris said.
Midway through the meeting, the victim’s family showed up, including the mother and aunt, who also had custody of the girl prior to the attack. Harris and the mother hugged.
The aunt later thanked everyone for their support, and talked about how her niece is doing. She said her niece is a good child, goes to school and doesn’t get into trouble.
“She’s much stronger than I would have thought. She’s coming through.”
A sketch of the suspect was released last Friday. The offender was described as a 130-pound black male, 5-feet-9, and 19-20 years old. Community leaders, however, said his age is closer to 20-23 years old. Leaders are working with police on a corrected release. The sketch was taken from the victim’s account.
The attack occurred Tuesday, Sept. 16, around 11:40 p.m., as the victim was returning home from a relative’s house, stopping at Baba’s Restaurant on Chicago Avenue, just west of Central Avenue. The suspect approached and followed the girl. He reportedly had a knife, grabbed the girl in a chokehold and dragged her into an alley behind the restaurant. The man reportedly punched, bit and raped the girl.
The attacker was last seen wearing a dark blue or black hooded sweatshirt. Video from the currency exchange reportedly shows the offender leaving the alley after the crime, as well as the victim moments later.
Last Thursday, the victim’s family joined community activists at a press conference at Chicago and Central, near where the crime took place. The family says witnesses in the area that night reported seeing the man leaving the alley but are afraid to come forward fearing they might be victimized by him.
Rev. Ira Acree, pastor of Greater St. John Bible Church and member of the Leader’s Network, encouraged witnesses to call police.
“We’re distributing fliers in the community asking anyone with information on this horrific and heinous crime to come forward,” he said. “She has been violated and her life will never be the same because of this tragic event.”
Last Saturday, more than 50 men canvassed the neighborhood near the crime scene, passing out fliers and asking people if they knew anything about the attack. The volunteers will be out again this Saturday, Oct. 4, starting at noon near Chicago and Central.