Columbus Police investigating serial rapes on west side

The scene on South Burgess Avenue.

COLUMBUS (WCMH)–Police say a violent rape that was reported Thursday morning on the west side may be related to two other such crimes in the same area.

On Thursday around 4:15 a.m., a woman said three white males approached her in the 400 block of South Burgess Avenue, pushed her into an alley, and violently raped her at gunpoint. The woman struggled with her attackers and was ultimately shot in the abdomen, police say. She is in fair condition at Mount Carmel West.

Desiree Fleming made the 911 call after the attack on Thursday .

“She was standing right in the middle of the road waving her arms, pointing to her legs. Blood was everywhere,” remembered Fleming.

“She’s scarred now. They took something from her she can never get back. It’s a nightmare.”

Police say the other reported rapes happened in April.

On Tuesday, April 24 at around 4 a.m., a woman was approached by two men in a “black or blue newer model vehicle” in the area of 2600 Sullivant Avenue. She was raped inside the vehicle. Police say the assault was violent and a firearm was displayed in the assault.

Police say a woman was also raped in the area of 472 Brehl Avenue on Wednesday, April 18 at 4:15 a.m. The woman was approached and raped by three white males, she told police. There was also a firearm displayed during this violent assault.

“There’s no reason not to believe that they’re going to stop doing this before they’re caught,” says Detective Sgt. David Pelphrey.

He says these rape cases are unusual because they’ve been so violent in nature and with multiple perpetrators. Sgt. Pelphrey says in each case the attackers have been so aggressive, the victims have sustained serious injuries.

“Rape is not necessarily a sex crime, sometimes it’s a crime of power and violence,” says Sgt. Pelphrey. “This may be the way they’re exerting that power and violence over these women.”

Pastor Jason Ridley’s church is on S. Burgess and Sullivant, near where two of the sexual assaults happened.

“It’s very shocking. It’s very unfortunate,” says Pastor Ridley. “We’re going to do whatever we can to make sure that they women in our church and community are protected and watched over because we don’t want this kind of thing to continue to happen.”

Sgt. Pelphrey says they’re investigating whether this is gang-related. Pastor Ridley says he wouldn’t be surprised if it was.

“We’ve been seeing a lot more of what they call tagging on different properties in the community with different gang signs and symbols,” he says. “We ask for your continued prayers for the Hilltop.”

Police are asking people to look out for one another and to not travel alone at night. They encourage anyone with additional information to contact the sexual assault tip line at 614-645-4266 or call Central Ohio CrimeStoppers at 614-645-4881.

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