Anthony Lonetree and Pat Pheifer, Star Tribune, August 24, 2007
The video shows what most witnesses in a St. Paul apartment building apparently didn’t tell.
A man beat a woman, removed his pants and sexually assaulted her in a hall, and five to 10 people saw at least part of the attack but did nothing to intervene or help, according to investigators and court documents.
It was only after police were summoned on a report of two drunk people lying in the hall that they learned there had been a rape. Rage Ibrahim, 25, of St. Paul, was charged Thursday with first-degree and third-degree criminal sexual conduct. He is in Ramsey County jail.
Residents on the second floor of Afton View Apartments weren’t talking much Thursday afternoon. One man wouldn’t come to his door. A young woman, with children surrounding her, said: “I don’t know anything.”
Though the building’s resident manager wouldn’t provide demographic breakdowns, the tenant list in the entryway is dominated by Somali surnames—a segment of St. Paul’s population that police say is often reluctant to report crimes.
Through Wednesday night, the building in the 300 block of Winthrop Street had generated 63 police incident reports this year, with 19 involving various types of disturbances and 11 being 911 hangup calls.
Tuesday’s rape was the first such offense at the building this year, reports show.
According to the complaint, officers found Ibrahim and the woman lying in the hall. Her clothes had been pushed above her waist. He wasn’t wearing pants or underwear.
The woman told officers that she didn’t know Ibrahim and that he had drugged her and raped her. She was taken to Regions Hospital in St. Paul.
Ibrahim told officers that he and the woman, whom he said was his girlfriend, were drunk and messed up. He maintains that the incident was a misunderstanding, according to Omar Jamal, the executive director of the Somali Justice Advocacy Center who spoke Thursday on Ibrahim’s behalf.
According to a search warrant affidavit, investigators talked to one resident in the building who said that a woman had knocked on his door in the middle of the night yelling “call the police!” The man said he didn’t open the door or look out. He said he called police, but police said there is no record of that call.
Trying to raise awareness
In the main office of the Afton View Apartments on Thursday, manager Abdullahi Anshoor said he has made a point of encouraging new tenants to report all crimes to police. It’s a message that is repeated at National Night Out events, too, he said.
Walsh, the police spokesman, said that the 911 dispatch staff currently has no Somali telecommunicators, but that efforts are underway to hire Somali-language speakers. Until that happens, he said, dispatchers can call translators for three-way communications.
The question of why so many people who must have been aware of the disturbance would not call Tuesday morning has yet to be easily answered.
Anshoor recognized a man on the video who was walking toward the man and woman and then turned around. Anshoor said he asked the man Tuesday why he did not report what he saw. The man replied: “I thought they were drunk. And I left.”