Inwood Hill Park is a bucolic escape in northern Manhattan. But that peace has been disturbed, and some parkgoers are on edge, since police say a man attacked three women over the course of an hour at 11 a.m. on Wednesday. Authorities say one woman was struck with a tree branch, causing her to lose consciousness.
“I’m really frustrated with the whole situation because we’ve been asking for help, screaming for help, and it just kind of feel like it’s fallen on deaf ears,” local resident Tamara Campbell said.
Early Saturday morning, police said a man had been charged in connection with the incidents.
According to the NYPD, 40-year-old Elvis Nina Pichardo faces charges of attempted rape, robbery and sexually motivated assault in connection with one of the incidents. Police say he faces charges of attempted criminal sexual act, attempted sexual abuse and menacing in connection with another of the incidents, and faces charges of attempted rape, assault and petit larceny in connection with the third incident.
According to police, he also faces a separate charge of public lewdness from an incident that occurred later in the day, at around 5:45 p.m. inside of a building on Sherman Avenue.
Rachael Camhi was in the park the day of the attacks.
“I happened to be here at 9:30, so then to hear that this happened around 11 is really scary. And there’s many times, maybe two days before, I’ve been there at 11 and it’s right at the path that I go on, so it’s particularly hard for me,” Camhi said.
Residents like Camhi who enjoy the park came together Friday with the first of two community-organized walks, called “Take Back the Light.”
“We want everyone to feel safe up here and for everyone to be able to come out here and enjoy this kind of amazing spot in New York City,” local resident Damien Caza-Cleypool said. “It’s important to represent the community in that way.”
Still, they wonder what can be done next to keep the park safe.
“I don’t know what the next step is. Do we still walk in the woods? Do we stay over here? Do we need more police? I don’t really know what the answer is, but right now, it feels really scary,” Camhi said.
Parkgoers noticed more officers form the NYPD and the Parks Enforcement Patrol.
Rep. Adriano Espaillat said help is on the way.
“It’s more mounted police, more PEP officers, better lighting and cameras,” he said.
“We do need more of a police presence, but we need people that are willing to diffuse the situation not escalate it but something has to be done these crimes are happening during the day,” Campbell said.