JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Days after a man was said to have raped a woman behind a Bartram Park shopping center Friday night, Jacksonville police are still asking for help tracking him down.
So far, no surveillance video of the suspect's car has been found in the area, police said.
According to the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office report, the man followed the woman leaving the grocery store to walk home, grabbed her stroller with her baby son inside and threatened to push it into a retention pond. He then dragged the victim onto a mattress and sexually assaulted her while continuing to make threats against her baby.
She told officers she scratched him in the face and he left, taking her cellphone and an undisclosed amount of cash with him.
She was treated for injuries and her baby was not hurt.
Over the weekend, police released a sketch of the attacker. He was described as a light-skinned black or possibly Hispanic man, 20 to 30 years old, 5 feet 8 inches tall, with a muscular build, straight black hair and brown eyes. He was driving an older-model gray four-door Honda-type car with "damaged looking" tinted windows.
Shoppers who frequent the area were shocked to hear about what happened.
"I'm floored," Debbie Vanschoor, a shopper, said. "There's no words to explain the sorrow that I feel for her."
Many residents in the area walk to and from the shopping center without worry. But Friday evening, police said the victim was walking home when a man approached her in his car.
According to police, the man was trying to get her attention and was making cat calls. That's when he followed her to the back of the plaza and raped her.
The area behind the shopping center that the woman took as a shortcut home is heavily wooded. News4Jax crime and safety analyst Gil Smith went to the spot for a closer look.
"No one can see anything, and you're so far from the parking lot that anybody can do anything back here," Smith said. "It's really a place no one should cut through.
Smith said regardless of location, it's important for people to be aware of their surroundings and to avoid secluded areas. One shopper told us she's going to be more vigilant after this incident.
"Definitely hold my keys," Vanschoor said. "Hit the panic button if I feel uncomfortable. Hopefully that will deter somebody."
Anyone with information about the man sketched in the above composite photo is asked to contact Crime Stoppers at 1-866-845-TIPS.
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