By Barbara Goldberg
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Four teens as young as 14 were charged as adults in last week's gang rape of an 18-year-old woman in a Brooklyn playground, while authorities sought a fifth suspect, New York City police said on Tuesday.
Police initially said the teens used a gun to order the girl's father to leave the playground in the downtrodden Brownsville section of Brooklyn on Thursday night and then attacked her.
All four teens, who range in age from 14 to 17, were charged with a single count each of rape and sex abuse and two counts of participating in a criminal sex act, police said.
Conflicting information has surfaced about details of the assault, including whether a gun was involved, said U.S. Representative Hakeem Jeffries, whose congressional district includes Brownsville.
He said the father had been drinking alcohol with his underage daughter "to the point where he became intoxicated ... The initial reports were that he was threatened with a gun but that seems to be based on his version of events."
Police declined to comment on the case, saying the investigation was continuing.
By the time the father returned with two uniformed police officers, the suspects had fled. The woman was taken to a local hospital, where she was treated and released.
The congressman said the young woman and her father had recently reconnected after a troubled past. He had abandoned her as a young child, sending her into foster care, and she was raised on the West Coast, Jeffries said.
While more than a decade of gentrification has transformed Brooklyn into a worldwide symbol of trendiness, home to bearded hipsters in knitted caps who make artisanal cheeses and raise honey bees on rooftops, pockets of the New York borough remain a gritty reminder of the city's crime-ridden past.
Brownsville, which is 76 percent black and 20 percent Hispanic, is particularly violent, with the city's highest rate of injuries from assault, according to the New York City Health Department. It also leads the city in premature deaths, meaning New Yorkers who die before age 65.
"This is a horrific incident and those responsible need to be prosecuted," Jeffries said. "But from a public policy perspective, everyone at the city, state and federal level needs to re-engage in Brownsville and help the residents better pursue the American dream. Brownsville has been left behind as Brooklyn has become one of the hottest places to live in the nation."
(Reporting by Barbara Goldberg; EDiting by Steve Orlofsky)