NEW YORK (AP) — A 73-year-old birdwatcher told police she was raped in Central Park Wednesday in broad daylight, possibly by a man angered because she photographed him exposing himself there.
The woman told investigators the man asked, "Do you remember me?" before attacking her at about 11 a.m. in a wooded area near the park's tranquil Strawberry Fields that serves as a memorial to John Lennon, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said at a news conference.
The man threw her to the ground and sexually assaulted her, then made off with her backpack that contained a camera, police said. He tried also to steal her watch but was unsuccessful.
The woman, who regularly visits the park, said she thinks the assailant was the same man she photographed masturbating about nine days ago in another, more isolated spot known as The Ramble, police said. She said he demanded she delete the image before they went their separate ways, and tried to grab her camera but didn't succeed. Police said that initial encounter wasn't reported.
Eric Ozawa, a college professor and birdwatcher, found the woman and called 911. He told reporters he noticed a pair of legs sticking out along the path but thought it was somebody sleeping. As he got closer, he realized it was a woman lying face down. Her face was badly swollen, she had a black eye and was covered in mulch, he said.
Still, she appeared "self-possessed and lucid," he said.
The woman told Ozawa she had been mugged and raped, he said. He immediately called the police.
"It's shocking that it could happen in the park in broad daylight," he said. "That someone could rape somebody in her 70s."