Police arrest 15-year-old in Garden District abduction, rape

New Orleans police have arrested a 15-year-old boy authorities say was involved in the kidnapping, rape and robbery of a Garden District woman that has garnered intense community, political and media attention over the past few days.

Police Superintendent Ronal Serpas announced the arrest Thursday flanked by Mayor Mitch Landrieu and several other police officials. Serpas said a relative of the boy, who was not immediately identified because of his age, persuaded the young man to turn himself in after seeing his face in news reports about the rape. Police called the boy a “person of interest” on Wednesday and asked for information on his whereabouts.

Officers had been feverishly searching for leads in the kidnapping and rape, which occurred Monday night on Eighth Street. A 30-year-old woman was abducted from in front of her home at gunpoint by three men and then sexually assaulted while they drove around, police say. She was later dropped back in front of her home.

Serpas called the crime “ruthless” and “heinous” and said the teenager could be tried as an adult and face 50 or 60 years in prison. Police are still searching for two other juvenile suspects in the case, and Serpas urged them to surrender now because police are rapidly closing in on them.

“We know who you are, and we are going to get you,” Serpas proclaimed.

Landrieu praised the work of police and city residents in working together to finding a suspect.

Landrieu said he often speaks on homicides and their impact on the community but that crimes against women are just as grave and troubling. He noted that police recently cleared a 30-month backlog of DNA exams related to sexual assault kits, thanks to assistance from State Police.

Landrieu expressed dismay at the age of the suspect, calling the crime a “tragic set of circumstances,” but said there must be consequences for actions.

“The crime that was committed on Monday in our city was unacceptable and won’t be tolerated in the city of New Orleans,” Landrieu said. “Our Police Department is working every day to keep the citizens safe.”

The crime shook up the normally quiet Garden District neighborhood, where residents feel comfortable walking, jogging and socializing outdoors. A friend of the victim said Tuesday that a crime like this can change someone’s entire perspective on life.

Serpas said one of the keys to solving the case was the participation of the public. Not only did the suspect’s relative turn him in, but police were able to develop the boy as a suspect thanks to private security footage from the neighborhood. Serpas added that police have been flooded with assistance from residents, who became outraged as news of the crime dominated local airways and other media outlets.

Landrieu said cooperation is crucial to addressing the city’s violent crime problem. “We have to do this together or we’re not going to succeed,” Landrieu said.

Serpas wouldn’t provide any details on the other suspects citing the ongoing investigation. He did not release many details on the 15-year-old suspect other than noting that had only a minor criminal record. Serpas said police believe the incident was completely random.

“I have no reason to think it was anything but a crime of opportunity,” Serpas said.