45-year-old sexual assault complainant changes story; undercover officers arrest aggravated robbery suspect
It sounded as if a crime wave had suddenly rushed through Oak Lawn late last week, but it turns out the news is a little better than people first thought.
Police officials revealed this week that a 45-year-old woman who claimed she was kidnapped from the Cedar Springs Road entertainment district has changed her story. The woman told police the men grabbed her after she left a nightclub on Thursday morning at 2:15 a.m., took her to an unknown location, raped her and then returned her to where she was abducted.
The report, which appeared in the electronic and print media, shocked people who couldn’t imagine a van of men pulling up next to a busy Dallas sidewalk, jumping out, forcing a woman inside and taking off. One woman said it sounded like something out of a Hollywood movie scene.
It might as well have been.
Dallas police officer Keith Allen said no kidnapping took place, although police believe she may have been raped under different circumstances.
“The victim in this case has come up with several different versions of what took place out there,” Allen said. “Obviously, that challenges us in determining what the facts are. We never want to fault our victims but clearly the story as first reported is factually incorrect at several points.”
Allen said women who visit the entertainment district should be careful about walking alone, but that a kidnapping did not occur on the busy street.
And that warning goes for men, too.
Juan Romero walked alone to his car from a Cedar Springs Road nightclub on Saturday night at about 2:30 a.m. He was parked on Dickason Street between the Melrose Hotel and Office Depot.
A man with a knife rushed him at the intersection of Shelby and Dickason streets and stole his drivers license, $10 in cash and his cell phone. When the assailant took his car keys and demanded that he be given a ride, Romero bolted.
“I then began to panic and became frightful of what he might do to me once we got to my car,” Romero said in an e-mail. “At that point I kicked him in the stomach as hard as I possibly could and began to run.”
The good news about that story is that undercover police officers working in the neighborhood witnessed the event and chased the suspect down.
They arrested Jimmy Rodriguez, 22, on aggravated robbery charges.
Romero counts himself lucky.
“I realize that I put myself in this situation by walking alone,” Romero said.
“All I want to do is to remind our community of the dangers that we face in the Oak Lawn area.”
Allen said Oak Lawn’s crime statistics show it is less dangerous than the Lower Greenville Avenue and Deep Ellum entertainment districts, but entertainment district patrons should always be careful about their surroundings. Parking in residential neighborhoods where the lighting is dimmer is always more dangerous, he said.
“Anytime you have a group of people gathering and having a good time, unfortunately bad guys tend to gather and look for opportunities to make victims out of people who are enjoying themselves,” Allen said.
But even though a certain amount of crime is always expected in an entertainment district, Allen said the robbery of the popular Dallas restaurant Eatzi’s on Oak Lawn Ave. on Thursday night about 11 p.m. surprised police.
At least three men entered the restaurant wearing masks and stole cash from an employee. No one was hurt, and the men fled the store on foot, according to witnesses.
“This is a very unusual crime for that neighborhood,” Allen said. “We are very curious as to having these guys show up at the time they did and behave the way they did.”
And that just goes to show how unpredictable crime is. It should make all of us aware that we could become a witness to or a victim of crime when we least expect it.
So you might want to consider a little friendly advice. Make a conscious effort to focus on what is going on around you. Be aware of what is taking place so you can minimize your chances of becoming a victim. And be prepared to run like hell.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition, September 29, 2006.