Police are searching for a suspect after they say a 73-year-old woman was sexually attacked in Central Park near Strawberry Fields just before noon Wednesday. NY1's Dean Meminger filed the following report.
It was a vicious and shocking attack in the middle of the day, in Central Park.
Police say a woman in her 70s, out bird watching, was sexually assaulted, beaten and robbed.
Police say they want to speak with a suspect, whom they have a surveillance photo of, about the attack. They want to know if he is the same person she may have taken a photo of a few days ago while he was caught in a lewd act.
"He may have been exposing himself or something along those lines," said Police Commissioner Ray Kelly. "We believe she may have taken a picture of him. And he then assaulted, sexually assaulted her today."
The battered senior flagged down another park-goer, Eric Ozawa, for help. He said she told him a similar story.
"She said she thought it was someone she had seen before in the park masturbating," he said.
Ozawa said he stayed with her and called 911.
"Her face was swollen," he said. "Her right eye was deeply bruised. Her forehead was swollen."
People who live in the area and come to Central Park often say they never thought something like this would happen in the middle of the day in Strawberry Fields.
"It is surprising, although, I have to say, I've been in there and sometimes you feel a little like you're off the beaten track, even though you're literally only 50 yards away from a lot of people," said one resident.
"Absolutely beautiful and safe," said another. "I never feel insecure."
Strawberry Fields is a part of Central Park dedicated to John Lennon, the late Beatle who was killed not far from there in 1980.
Park advocates say this sort of attack could send a bad message to New Yorkers and tourists about park crime.
"It is certainly not the old days, there's no doubt about that," said Geoffrey Croft of NYC Park Advocates. "But the fact that this is happening in broad daylight, a 73-year-old woman, is definitely cause for concern and it is a very high profile area of the park as well."
But some say it's an isolated incident and they're not that worried.
Anyone with information on the case should contact the Crime Stoppers hotline at 1-800-577-TIPS, or text CRIMES and then enter TIP577, or visit www.nypdcrimestoppers.com.