SARASOTA, Fla. (WFLA) — Many are unhappy with the investigation of a rape near Riverview High School in Sarasota. They feel the sheriff’s office took too long to notify the public, but officials are urging people to not spread panic on social media.
On Friday, Oct. 13 during Riverview High School’s homecoming game, a woman walked to her car on Parma Street around 8 p.m. It’s a popular spot for students to park during games. And that’s when officials tell us a man forced his way into her car and raped her.
The man was described as a white man between the ages of 30 and 40 with a medium build. He has long, dark brown hair, a mustache and a goatee and a mole on his face. At the time of the incident, he was wearing a gray t-shirt.
The sheriff’s office didn’t notify the public until five days later, sparking a flurry of angry comments online — many were unhappy with the long delay.
“How can we help catch somebody if you’re not helping us to do something? And then the police said, ‘Well we don’t want to alarm people.’ Well I’m more alarmed by somebody not telling me that something happened right down the street here,” said Parma Street resident Donna Campbell.
Campbell saw the suspect earlier that day.
“He didn’t look like he fit at all, and then when he turned his head, he looked like Charles Manson. He had a goatee, he had a mustache, long brown hair, pulled in a ponytail, but he didn’t look right, there was a look in his eyes that was just not correct,” said Campbell.
She was angry that so much time had passed before the public was informed.
“Nobody ever came to my house, the police never came to my house,” said Campbell.
“Every investigation is different. Every investigation is unique. We are not reactive, we’re pragmatic, we’re methodical in our approach to law enforcement,” explained Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office Spokesperson Kaitlyn Perez.
The sheriff’s office says these investigations take time, and people should not rush to judgment on social media.
“We’re methodical because we want to avoid creating mass hysteria,” said Perez. “It’s something to consider to be methodical and be thoughtful about what you see on social media. Not everything you see out there is always accurate. Do your homework, do your research.”
But others believe the word should get out immediately.
“Why not put out a composite? Why not do something? Why not come beating on our doors at night?” asked Campbell. “The police always say, ‘Oh be informed, be alert, if you see something suspicious let us know.’ Well they saw something suspicious and they didn’t let us know, so it’s kind of contradictory here, isn’t it?”
The case is still under investigation, but detectives have exhausted all leads and need the public’s help.
“Very unfortunately, throughout this investigation, detectives have had trouble corroborating evidence and developing an accurate timeline of how all this took place,” said Perez.
Many just wish they knew about this a whole lot sooner.
“You’re walking around and you have no idea that something’s happened, and that’s not right either,” said Campbell.
There will be increased patrols surrounding the area during Riverview’s football game this Friday, Nov. 3.
If you have any information to help in this case, call the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office.