Lindsay Wilcox, NBC 5 News
Dallas police are saturating an area south and east of Fair Park with patrols in search of a serial rapist. Investigators say the latest victim came forward today to report that she was assaulted Aug. 28. They say the suspect targets women who are out walking in the early morning hours near Fair Park.
Police are asking for the public's help in tracking down a serial rapist who has assaulted at least eight women in South Dallas this summer.
Dallas police officials first alerted the public to the series of attacks on Tuesday when they said seven women had been victimized in six different locations. On Wednesday, police said another victim had come forward, bringing the total number of known assaults to eight.
Since issuing an alert about the attacks on Tuesday, Dallas police have received five good leads. Investigators are also rushing the results of DNA testing to verify whether the same man committed the attacks.
Meanwhile, police are saturating the area and pulling over drivers whose vehicles that match the description of the man's getaway car.
At 6 p.m. Thursday, Dallas police will hold a community meeting at True Lee Missionary Baptist Church to discuss the attacks. The church is located at 3907 Bertrand Avenue.
Eight Attacks Between June, September
Jeff Cotner, with the Dallas Police Department's Crimes Against Persons Unit, said at a news conference Tuesday night that the attacks happened between June 22 and Sept. 1. In every case, the attacker was armed with a handgun.
Cotner said the man approached his victims as they were walking in the early-morning hours, between midnight and 6 a.m., in an area bounded by East RL Thornton Freeway to the north, South Haskell Avenue to the east, Spring Avenue on the south and Malcolm X Boulevard on the west. The man demanded the women go with him to a secluded area where he then sexually assaulted them before letting them go.
Police said the attacker has been described as black, between 25 to 30 years old with a height between 5 feet 6 inches to 5 feet 11 inches tall. He is estimated to weigh 200 pounds and was last seen wearing a T-shirt and shorts. He wears prescription glasses and always covers his face with a cloth or piece of clothing to conceal his identity, according to Cotner. His glasses are being described as oval shaped and gold-rimmed.
"They all mention he's wearing glasses, he has a handgun, he's wearing a T-shirt, he's wearing shorts, he approaches them on foot. We feel as if it's the same suspect," Cotner said.
Police said the man leaves the area in a car described as either a gray Honda Civic four-door or older model gray Volvo four-door sedan.
As of Wednesday morning, Dallas police said the serial rapist has attacked eight women at the following seven locations:
Some Criticise Wait in Issuing Alert
Some in the community have criticized the department for waiting so long to issue an alert to the public.
Councilman Dwaine Caraway said an alert could have been made long before a link was established between the cases.
"Not necessarily singling out there's a serial [rapist] going down, singling out the area in which all of those took place -- that's an alert," he said.
When asked why the delay in notifying the public of the serial rapist, Cotner pointed to the gap between the attacks in June and August.
"The two victims from June, the information that we developed at the time did not indicate that there was a serial. We had this gap, and we don't know -- that's part of our investigation, is why we had this large gap of six weeks," said Cotner. "Since Aug. 20 all the way through Sept. 1, we've had those five occurrences. Certainly, you can see the trend there."
Deputy Chief Sherrill Scott defended the timing of the alert, saying that some of the victims did not want to cooperate with police. Others simply needed time before they were ready to speak with investigators, Scott said.
"Sometimes it can take a week. Sometimes, it can take even longer, so that sometimes hinders our ability to connect some of these," Scott said.
Cotner said detectives are still working with the victims to gather information that could help lead to an arrest.
"Our victims all range from late teens all the way to their 40s, the commonality is the time of day, the geographic area of our city and that they're walking," Cotner said.
Neighbors Urge Caution
"There's no reason as women not to feel safe in the community that we cherish," said Fair Park neighbor Noni Thomas.
Thomas said as the sun came up Wednesday morning on the neighborhood where she's lived for 22 years, there was some relief that no one else had been attacked.
"Women in our community should be able to feel safe walking, regardless what time it is. Walk through the community without having to worry about being hurt or attacked," Thomas said.
Police warn residents in the area to take precautions, don't walk alone, walk with others or use a vehicle.
Crime Stoppers is offering a reward up to $5,000 for information the arrest and indictment. If you have information you can remain anonymous just call Crime Stoppers at 214-373-TIPS (8477).
NBC 5's Kendra Lyn, Ken Kalthoff and Lindsay Wilcox contributed to this report.