Washington: Four teenagers suspected of having taken part in the gang rape of a 18-year-old woman at gunpoint in a playground in Brooklyn have been taken into custody, the New York Police Department announced on Sunday night.
A fifth person suspected in the attack is still being sought.
US woman raped by five men
Five men took turns raping a woman in a Brooklyn park after forcing her father at gunpoint to flee the scene.
The victim was at the playground with her father just after 9pm on Thursday, according to CBS New York, when the group of five men approached. One pointed a gun at the woman's father and told him to leave. Then the men took turns raping the woman.
The father returned with two police officers, but the men had already fled.
Two of the suspects, a 14-year-old and a 15-year-old, were turned in by their parents a day after police on Saturday released surveillance video from a nearby shop selling wine and food, according to the New York Times. The others, aged 15 and 17, were apprehended. Charges against them are pending.
The attack has touched off a wave of insecurity in Brooklyn's Brownsville neighbourhood, a mostly residential area that has endured relatively high crime rates even as those in the rest of the city have fallen. It also prompted questions from elected officials about the NYPD's response to the crime, which took nearly 20 minutes after the men first approached their victim, according to the Times.
"I am disgusted and deeply saddened by the horrific attack," New York mayor Bill de Blasio said on Sunday, according to the Associated Press. He added, "Every New Yorker in every neighbourhood deserves to feel safe and protected, and we will not stop until the perpetrators of this disturbing attack are held accountable for their actions."
Brooklyn borough president Eric Adams also released a statement deploring the attack and urging the police to conduct an investigation into the response "to determine if everything possible was done to protect the victim and the public".
Mr Adams also questioned why police waited two days to notify the public and community leaders about the attack.
"A rape takes place on the Upper East Side, it would not take two days for that information to come out, and the people to be protected, and the people to be aware," he told WABC, referring to a wealthy Manhattan neighbourhood.
The police responded on Sunday with a statement asserting that officers responded as soon as the victim's father approached their patrol car. Descriptions of the suspects were not immediately available, the statement added, but on Saturday an expanded search turned up surveillance video of the five men entering the food and wine shop before the attack. The video was released to the media within six hours of its discovery, as soon as it could be reviewed, retrieved and copied.
Mateo Gomez, an attendant at Laida Deli, told the New York Times that the video came from his store. He recognised the young men in the footage, saying that the teenagers came to the store most afternoons and sometimes stole cakes or other snacks.
"They're bad boys," he said.
No call was made to 911 about the attack, the statement said, but police called for a supervisor and an ambulance to transport the woman to the hospital.
The father told WABC that he was with his daughter having a drink near the handball court in Osborn Playground when the five men approached. When one pulled out a gun and told him to leave, he felt he had no choice but to obey – he feared he would be killed otherwise.
Lacking a mobile phone, he ran to a nearby shop and asked an employee there to call the police, but was rebuffed, he said. Eventually he found two officers in their patrol car.
Meanwhile, the woman said she was screaming for help, according to WABC.
"I didn't know what to do. I was in a panic mode," she said.
The brazen attack, conducted in a playground next to a school and surrounded by homes, left neighbours shaken and shaking their heads.
Some Brownsville residents told The New York Times that they knew Osborn Playground as a dangerous place after dark. The park's lights are rarely on, leaving the blue and red playground equipment, creaking swings and asphalt sports fields in deep shadow.
Alethea Pierce, who has lived in the area for 43 years, told the Times she has long carried a small pocketknife when she walked past the playground on her way to work.
But even with all that, the news of the attack was alarming.
"It forces you to think differently about your own neighbourhood," Ms Pierce said.
The New York Times, Reuters