Police investigating rape outside of Jacksonville Beach bars

The May 25 attack has young women at the beaches on edge

By Ashley Spicer - Reporter, anchor, Erik Avanier - Reporter

JACKSONVILLE BEACH, Fla. - Detectives are investigating the rape of a woman who said she was attacked last month while leaving the Jacksonville Beach bars.

Officers were called to the St. Vincent’s emergency room about 9:40 a.m. May 25, where they spoke with the victim who told them it happened about 2 a.m. that morning as she walked to her car, according to an incident report. She told police she was walking through an alley near Surfer The Bar when three men grabbed her. She said two of the men held her down while a third raped her.

The victim said her attacker warned her not to scream, threatening further harm if she did, according to the report. She estimated the attack was over in no more than seven minutes and the men took off.

Police said they're doing everything in their power to make people feel safe, "A lot of officers assigned specifically to our downtown area, not including all the rest of our patrol and overtime and all that," said detective Cmdr. Mark Evans.

At the moment, their chief focus is trying to identify and ultimately locate the men involved, Evans said. They're hopeful that anyone who saw something related to the attack will come forward and share what they know with authorities.

Young women at the beaches are now on high alert with some saying they always take extra steps to protect themselves when they go out on the town. Namely, they don't travel alone.

"You don't know what's going on when you don't have someone there to watch your back and stuff," beachgoer Jada McGhee said. "We always try to stay in groups for the most part."

"Jax Beach is a little sketchy with people around. We have to make sure that we're with friends, never being alone, never past one or 12 a.m. alone, especially walking around," added Brooke Bevis.

Bobbi Tucker, a bartender, said women who find themselves alone late at night aren't out of options if their friends have already left the bar.

"Ask the bartender, security guard, even ask the guy in the kitchen -- somebody to walk you out, so you're not walking alone," Tucker said.

Mayor Charlie Latham said despite what has been reported, Jacksonville Beach should not be labeled a dangerous place for women.

"We've got a great police force. We've got undercover officers downtown. I think we do an excellent job of preventative policing," Latham said. It could be a lot worse than it has been, and I don’t mean to demean what’s happened. My hearts and prayers go out to the individuals or victims of this crime.”

The May 25 attack marks the latest in a series of similar incidents that have unfolded in Jacksonville Beach since October 2018. In March, a 21-year-old man and 17-year-old girl were arrested in connection with the New Year’s Day abduction and rape of a 30-year-old man.

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