PACOIMA — The rape of two young Pacoima girls, grabbed as they walked to school last week, has led police and school officials to warn parents that their children should be extra careful going to and from school.
"We do not want to cause any panic, but we certainly want the parents to be aware of what has happened and caution their children not to walk alone," said LAPD Detective Nancy Lyon, who supervises the Foothill Division's sexual assaults unit.
Police have scheduled a community meeting to discuss the rapes at 7 tonight at the Boys & Girls Club of the San Fernando Valley, located at the corner of Van Nuys and Glenoaks boulevards in Pacoima.
At Hillery T. Broadous School, where one of the victims was a student, Principal Fanny M. Johnson said teachers and staff members had advised students "to be aware" and to walk with a friend. A notice sent home to parents suggested that they pick up their children when possible.
"It's terrible that we live in a world where we have to worry about kids coming to and from school, but we'll deal with it," Johnson said.
Lyon said that the two assaults occurred on consecutive days last week in the same vacant apartment. On Sept. 21, between 7:30 and 8 a.m., a 16-year-old girl who attends Kennedy High School in Granada Hills was abducted by a man while she walked alone along the 12600 block of Van Nuys Boulevard between Glenoaks and Foothill boulevards.
She was taken to a nearby apartment and sexually assaulted in the patio area, Lyon said. The man also stole some jewelry from the girl, he said.
The next day, about the same time, an 11-year-old girl was within five blocks of Broadous School--also walking alone--when she was abducted by a man whom police believe was the same individual involved in the first rape. He took her to the same apartment and assaulted her, police said.
Lyon said it is unusual for a rape to happen at the same time on consecutive days in the same location. In addition, she said rapes do not often occur that early in the morning.
"We want to elicit the community's help in finding this guy," Lyon said.
Based on the victims' accounts, police describe the male suspect as African-American, 25 to 30 years old, between 5 feet 8 inches and 6 feet tall and weighing between 150 and 180 pounds. He has a partially shaved head and "razor bumps" on his chin and neck from shaving.
At the time of both rapes, the man was wearing a green military-style jacket and pants with multicolored pockets. He had a yellow metal hoop earring in one ear.
A composite drawing of the suspect, drawn from the witness accounts, accompanied a letter sent by Broadous Principal Johnson last week to the parents of the 1,200 students at the school, located on Filmore Street.
In the letter--which was written in English and Spanish--Johnson told parents of the rape and reminded them not to let their children walk alone to school and to pick up their children promptly or call the school if they will be late.
"We're seeing a lot of support from the parents," Johnson said.
Wesley Mitchell, chief of the school district's police department, said his officers are working with the LAPD in the investigation and have increased patrols in the area.
Officials at nearby Pacoima and Montague Street elementary schools also have sent letters to parents of their students reminding them not to have their children walk alone to school, administrators said. Those letters did not mention the specific attacks because school officials decided it was unnecessary to include that detail.
At Broadous, however, Johnson said her students have been made aware of the assault and teachers have been discussing it in their classrooms.
"The children have been handling it well, and most are not scared or anxious" she said, adding that a crisis intervention team, including a psychologist, is available to any child needing help.