Sarasota police warn public after woman sexually assaulted at park

Centennial Park in Sarasota

SARASOTA, Fla. (WFLA) — The Sarasota Police Department is asking people to watch out for suspicious activity at Centennial Park after a female reported that she was sexually assaulted at the park.

Investigators say it happened at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 18. The female was riding her bicycle on a sidewalk on the northern edge of Centennial Park near the 10th Street boat ramp parking lot when she was sexually assaulted.

The victim was pulled from her bicycle and dragged into the northern wood line where the suspect sexually assaulted her.park2

Sarasota Police Spokeswoman Genevieve Judge said, “We haven’t had a crime to this degree in that area in any recent memory.”

The suspect is described as a dark-skinned male, between 30 and 40 years of age, approximately 6’2” tall and has a very thin build.

The story comes as a shock to Sarasota residents.

Lifelong resident Mark Stewart said, “This is Sarasota, you don’t hear of things like that.”

Stewart often brings his family to the park and uses the ramp to take out his boat to the bay. This crime makes him worried. He said, “When you hear things like that, it’s tough to continue to go biking and to go out and do things like that.”

Deborah Blondin often walks through the area. She was stunned to learn of the news.

“This is a beautiful area, you don’t think of that kind of thing happening, and it is kinda scary,” said Blondin.park3

“I’ll make sure that I won’t be walking by myself at night,” Blondin said. “I’m thinking maybe I’m not gonna come down here, I’m thinking maybe I’ll go in the other direction.”

Nearby residents and boat ramp visitors are asked to be on the lookout if they are in the area and please report anything suspicious.

“People around that area shouldn’t be nervous, but they should be aware of what’s happened,” said Judge.

Police say locals should be vigilant. They add that you shouldn’t walk or bike alone in the dark.

Anyone with information on this case is asked to please call Detective Dan Riley at 941-954-7062 or leave an anonymous tip with Crime Stoppers by calling 941-366-TIPS (8477) or online at http://www.sarasotacrimestoppers.com

Centennial Park is located at 1059 North Tamiami Trail.

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