awful things

Suspect Shares Smartphone Video of What May Have Happened Before Alleged Rape at Brooklyn Playground

Brooklyn Rape
This January 11, 2016 photo shows Osborn Playground in Brownsville. Photo: Bebeto Matthews/AP/Corbis

Shortly after a fifth suspect was taken into custody for the alleged rape of an 18-year-old at a playground in Brooklyn, the four other suspects were arraigned at Brooklyn Criminal Court.

“What are we really doing here?” one of the suspect’s lawyers said. “Because the mayor gets an action and a politician says to do something, we haven’t learned that is how sometimes justice is perverted? … Have we not learned our lessons from the Central Park Five?”

One of the defense attorneys mentioned a video shot by one of the suspects, a video that allegedly showed what happened shortly before the alleged attack. The New York Times and New York Daily News were both shown the reported ten-second video by a brother of one of the suspects. The Daily News says that the video shows “a smiling girl who’s naked from the waist down — supposedly the victim — sitting with a young man.” There are a few snippets of dialogue; according to the Times, a male voice says, “She said yeah … If you said yeah, it’s lit, like, you know what I mean. I could tell you a freak.”

Two suspects told the police that the sex was consensual. Two suspects also told the authorities in interviews, according to the Journal, that the daughter was having sex with her father when they arrived. An official told the newspaper, “They indicated that father is the one who put her in this compromised position and they took advantage.” A suspect allegedly said, “We’ll take it from here.”

There are conflicting stories about the father’s status when he left the scene, according to Reuters. Representative Hakeem Jeffries said that he allegedly drank “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.” No gun has been recovered yet.

Regardless of the circumstances of what happened, one law-enforcement official told the Times, it “does not mean she was not a victim of a pretty horrific attack … What appeared to have happened is that the father may have put her in that compromised position.”

However, The Wall Street Journal reports that video “from a nearby school ‘bolstered’ the victim’s and father’s account,” according to chief of detectives Robert Boyce. “Everything she said seemed credible, and her father’s narrative was exactly the same,” Boyce said.

The teenagers allegedly approached the woman, who was drinking beer with her father at Osborn Playground in Brownsville last Thursday night — in a place where they hoped the police wouldn’t notice them — and told the father to go away. The father told the authorities that one of the teenagers had a gun, and that he rushed to a nearby bodega asking for help. CNN reports that the person working at the bodega had no idea what the man was talking about since he was so frenzied and incoherent, and told him to leave. One worker at the bodega told the New York Post, “He was swaying side to side. He asked me, ‘Lend me your phone.’ I said no.”

The father eventually found police officers, but the woman — who had been screaming for help — was all alone at that point. 

I was just really scared,” the woman told WABC. “I didn’t know what to do. I was in a panic mode.” She was taken to a nearby hospital for treatment; she was covered with cuts and bruises. Reuters says that the victim lived on the West Coast and had been put up for adoption at a young age — she had only reconnected with her father very recently. 

Police originally said “each one of the five suspects raped the victim,” but the Times noted that the victim “told investigators she was raped by at least one of the suspects and forced to perform oral sex on two others … two of the suspects told investigators they witnessed those sex acts, but described them as consensual between the woman and the three other suspects.”

The fifth suspect, Travis Beckford, was arrested on Tuesday morning. The 17-year-old was taken into custody at his high school, according to The Wall Street Journal

The four other teenagers being held — 14-year-old Denzel Murray, 15-year-old Shaquell Cooper, 15-year-old Ethan Phillip, and 17-year-old Onandi Brown were all charged as adults. The charges include rape, forcible compulsion, participating in a criminal sex act, and sexual abuse, according to CBS News. Two of the suspects were reportedly brought to the police by their mothers, per the Daily News. Their bail ranges from $10,000 to $50,000. DNA evidence is still being processed and collected — it might be a week before the results of this part of the investigation are complete, according to DNAinfo.

Jeffries added that “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.”

On Tuesday, Mayor Bill de Blasio said that he wished he had been told about the incident earlier. 

“It was Sunday around noon from one of my aides from City Hall” when he was notified, he told reporters, according to the New York Post. “I should have been informed certainly on Friday. I should have been informed more quickly.” NYPD Commissioner Bratton added, “There’s no getting around the fact that in this instance … we did not push information quickly enough.”

This post has been updated.

Fifth Suspect in Custody for Brooklyn Rape Case