The witness who called 911 when she saw a woman being raped on a West Toledo sidewalk said she's sleepless with guilt that she didn't do more to stop the attack.
The witness, a woman who asked that she not be identified in The Blade, clearly described the assault to emergency dispatchers during a one-minute, 47-second call as she drove past the scene.
Days after the attack, she sobbed yesterday as she spoke of her regret of not stopping to intervene.
"I didn't hear her scream. If I had, I would have helped her. I would have ran my car into him or something," the witness said.
Toledo Police Chief Mike Navarre said yesterday the witness did the right thing and could have risked her own safety had she intervened.
"She did exactly what we wanted her to do. She called the police," Chief Navarre said.
"We want people to report it to the police immediately, and that's exactly what she did."
The victim, a 26-year-old woman who has bipolar disorder and Asperger's syndrome, was walking to the West Toledo branch library about 2:30 p.m. Tuesday when the assailant threatened her with a pair of scissors.
He then pulled down her sweatpants and sexually assaulted her on the sidewalk on Royalton Road at Lyman Avenue, police said.
At least two cars drove by during the attack. They didn't stop.
One of the witnesses was the woman who called 911 and kept going.
Two witnesses in another vehicle did not call authorities but returned to the scene minutes later to provide a description of the suspect that contributed to his arrest about 12 hours after the crime.
The witness said she hasn't slept much since that day. She said she can't help but break down into tears when she thinks about what she saw. She feels like she has no one to talk to about her guilt, because "it's embarrassing to talk to people," she said.
"I talked to my family. They just told me to let it go," the witness said.
"I'm having a really hard time dealing with it. I'll never forget this the rest of my life. I can't get it out of my mind."
Toledo Police Sgt. Sam Harris, who investigated the attack, said the bizarre circumstances of the sexual assault may have added to witnesses' reluctance to intervene.
The male witness who returned to the scene later told police he couldn't tell if the act was rape, Sergeant Harris said. "The act was so strange, he couldn't really sort through what he was seeing," Sergeant Harris said. "The bottom line is, [witnesses] really couldn't believe what they were seeing, what was occurring."
It would have been dangerous to approach the suspect, who was armed with scissors, he added.
"To grab a girl and sexually assault her on the street, who knows what he would have done," Sergeant Harris said.
Chief Navarre also defended the passers-by who didn't stop at the scene.
"I cannot think of another case ever in my 32 and half years ever when someone was raped on the side of the road. Ever," Chief Navarre said.
"It's plausible to question what exactly they were seeing."
He said he was saddened to learn the witness who called 911 hasn't forgiven herself for passing by.
"I would not condemn her, and she has no reason in the world to second-guess what she did. Certainly she could have been attacked or killed if she tried to intervene
," Chief Navarre said.
"Everybody wants to be a Monday-morning quarterback and say what they should have done. But unless you were put in that situation, you really can't say what you would have done."