Fifth teen suspect accused of New York gang rape in custody

By Barbara Goldberg

By Barbara Goldberg

NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York City police on Tuesday were interviewing the last of five teenagers accused of raping an 18-year-old woman in a Brooklyn playground last week, officials said.

The four others, who range in age from 14 to 17, have been charged with rape and other related counts. The fifth suspect, age 18, was taken into custody around 11 a.m. EST on Tuesday.

The victim and her father, who were drinking together in the park in the downtrodden Brownsville section of Brooklyn on Thursday night, told police one of the teens forced him to flee at gunpoint before they took turns raping the woman.

By the time the father returned with two police officers, the suspects had fled, police said. The woman was taken to a local hospital, where she was treated and released.

Two of the suspects told police the father and daughter were engaged in sexual activity in the park, Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce said at a press conference. But he emphasized that officers had found no evidence to support those statements.

While conflicting reports had surfaced regarding whether a gun was involved, Boyce said the victim and her father gave matching accounts. Video showing the suspects leaving the park a few minutes after the reported incident bolstered the father's and victim's story, Boyce said.

Police have not recovered a firearm and are awaiting DNA results from tests taken at the hospital.

"She gave a very credible report to us," he said, adding that she suffered cuts and bruises consistent with an attack. "She was traumatized."

In an earlier phone interview, U.S. Representative Hakeem Jeffries, whose congressional district includes Brownsville, cited different reports regarding the gun and said the father was "intoxicated."

The congressman said the woman and her father had recently reconnected after a troubled past. He had abandoned her as a child, sending her into foster care, and she was raised on the West Coast, Jeffries said.

While more than a decade of gentrification has transformed Brooklyn into a symbol of trendiness, pockets of the New York borough remain a gritty reminder of the city's crime-ridden past.

Brownsville, which is 76 percent black and 20 percent Hispanic, is particularly violent, with the city's highest rate of injuries from assault, according to the New York City Health Department.

"Brownsville has been left behind as Brooklyn has become one of the hottest places to live in the nation," said Jeffries.

(Additional reporting by Joseph Ax and Laila Kearney; Editing by Steve Orlofsky and Cynthia Osterman)