LAPD sex crimes detectives said surveillance footage of an apparent attempted rape in Van Nuys should help them find a man accused of assaulting at least one homeless woman while she slept.
The attack occurred around 3 a.m. on September 15 as the woman slept at the door of a business in block 6200 on Sepulveda Boulevard in Van Nuys.
“She was sleeping soundly under a fully lit awning,” said LAPD Detective Jeff Briscoe. “It’s a pretty cheeky attack and chances are he has done it before, and most likely will do it again.”
The video shows the woman in a sleeping bag as a man walks up and then crouches down next to her. He is described as being Armenian or Latino, in his twenties with tattoos on his left arm and a specific Christian cross on his neck, wearing a beige t-shirt and black pants with clean white Nike shoes. As he reaches out to touch her, she looks surprised and tries to push him away. Realizing what is going on, she searches for a cell phone in her sleeping bag to call 911.
LAPD says the video shows the man backing up, watching her try to find her phone, then drop her pants, revealing his genitals. They think he targeted the woman on his most vulnerable.
As she tried to push him away, the man appeared to be trying to kiss her, forcing his left hand on his penis at one point – while still kicking and pushing and eventually tried to hit him with a plastic bucket.
“She is doing her best and to her advantage, she was able to repel the attack,” said Det. Briscoe said, but adds that the video shows the man returning nine minutes later for another attempt.
“This time he took off his shoes and his pants,” Briscoe said. “And he exposes himself again and tries to have unwanted sex with the victim.”
LAPD Van Nuys commanding officer Captain Charles Phillip Hearn says that as frightening as the video appears, it’s not uncommon.
“This is a vulnerable population,” he said, adding that Van Nuys’ division had reported five cases like this involving homeless people in the past year.
“Sexual assault, forced sodomy, forced oral copulation,” said Captain Hearn. “We work closely with the council to ensure that people are housed and in a safe environment. “
Additional surveillance video shows that after the second encounter, the man appears to chase the woman up and down Sepulveda Boulevard before hiding on the property of a nearby motel. By the time the police arrived that morning, however, he was gone. They say they are also able to see the dark colored sedan the man was driving that morning, but not enough to read a license plate.
Detectives say the case hardly even got that far – initially classified as a sexual battery case with little information on the suspect – until their detectives dig deeper and uncover the surveillance footage existing.
“Someone is going to know him,” Briscoe said, hoping that by sharing the video someone will recognize the forward.
“We believe this man is an employee and I hope a colleague or supervisor or someone will know who he is and tell us,” he said.
Anyone with information is urged to contact the lead investigator directly on the case: Det. Leslie Brenner of the Van Nuys Division Sexual Assault Investigation Unit at 818-374-0009. If an arrest results in a conviction, the man could face rape charges. Under California law, attempted rape and rape itself carry the same jail term.
As for the victim, police say they are trying to locate her to help her find safe accommodation. They believe she left the area out of fear, but was spotted between Van Nuys and Long Beach.