NEW YORK (AP) — A father trying to report that his daughter was being accosted by armed teenagers in a city playground said a deli owner refused to let him use a telephone, delaying the police response to the scene until after the girl had been raped, authorities said Monday.
Police said that more than 15 minutes elapsed between the time when the alleged attack began last Thursday in a dark corner of a Brooklyn park and when officers, flagged down by the distraught father, responded to the park only to find that the young assailants had fled into the night.
The exact circumstances of the alleged crime — and why there was a delay in reporting it — remained unclear on Monday, even as outrage built in the neighborhood.
But a short-order cook at one deli confirmed that a man had come in looking upset and asked to use the phone to call the police. The cook, Mac Atran, said the man didn't say anything about his daughter being attacked and a manager sent him away.
"A lot of guys come in asking to use the phone," Atran said. "Something was wrong with him but (the manager) didn't believe he was really in trouble."
Four teenagers were in custody on Monday in connection with the incident. Two of the teens, ages 15 and 17, were arrested on Sunday and the two others, ages 14 and 15, were turned in by their parents. A fifth was being sought. Police hadn't yet announced what charges the teens would face.
The incident unfolded at about 9 p.m. Thursday after an 18-year-old woman and her 39-year-old father decided to drink beer together near a handball court at a playground residents say usually is quiet and empty at night.
The woman told investigators that a group of teenagers approached the pair in the park and one of them pulled out a handgun and ordered the father to leave. The father, who didn't have a cellphone, claimed that he wandered around for several minutes in a futile attempt to get help before he flagged down two police officers.
At one point, the father was seen running past a marked police car before circling back to alert the officers, police said. Police said there were no 911 calls and that once alerted, the officers "immediately responded" and had the battered victim hospitalized.
Eric Adams, the Brooklyn borough president and a former police captain, said the rape was tragic on multiple levels — from the horror of the crime itself, to the police response time, to the inaction of the nearby businesses. "Some crimes strike at the core of an entire community," he said.
Brownsville resident Lawrence Andino, a father of two daughters, questioned the actions of the father.
"I'm not going to leave my daughter behind to get raped by five men," Andino said. "I'd rather die before I see that happen."
Some residents held a rally on Monday blaming the deli and other businesses near the playground for not doing more for the father. One, Tony Herbert, said shops "are part of the infrastructure," and have a responsibility to help.
Investigators did an extensive search for witnesses but came up empty, police said. On Saturday, they located a security videotape they said showed the suspects entering a deli and released it that night with a request for the public's help in locating them. Police said on Monday that no gun had been recovered.
Associated Press Writer Jake Pearson contributed to this report.