A day after angry Kensington residents pummeled a suspect in the abduction and rape of an 11-year-old girl on her way to school, Philadelphia officials had to walk a fine line.
While they would not endorse the street justice doled out to 26-year-old Jose Carrasquillo, neither would they condemn the actions of an impassioned community confronted with a horrific crime.
"I don't condone violence," Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey said yesterday.
Although "members of the community were very upset over this, and some may have used more force than a trained police officer," none will be charged, he said.
In fact, those who stopped Carrasquillo on Clearfield Street near Lee Street and eventually beat him into the hospital stand to share a $10,000 reward offered by the Fraternal Order of Police.
The money will be disbursed once Carrasquillo is formally charged with the rape and investigators identify those who "stepped up" to detain him, FOP president John McNesby said.
"If we have to pay 10,000 people a dollar each, we'll do that," he said.
Carrasquillo was identified Tuesday as a suspect in the rape, which police called "sadistic," and fliers with his name and picture were distributed. Several males confronted him on the street around 3:15 p.m. Carrasquillo denied being the rapist, but the residents began beating him.
"We just pounded on him because we wanted him arrested," said Kris Torres, a 16-year-old who said he had been part of the initial group that stopped Carrasquillo.
A large crowd gathered and continued beating Carrasquillo, with someone apparently hitting him with a board.
Police arrived to stop the beating and arrest Carrasquillo. His condition at Temple University Hospital was upgraded from critical to stable last night, police said.
Some legal experts said yesterday that the residents put themselves in danger of being charged with assault.
A surveillance camera captured the beating, and several who took part in apprehending Carrasquillo talked to reporters about their roles.
"No one's going to want to prosecute them . . . but as a policy decision, do you have to?" asked local defense lawyer Rocco Cipparone. "Suppose it turns out to be the wrong guy. Then you have an even bigger problem."
But, he added, "on a human, emotional level, myself included . . . if he's the guy who did it, no, I don't feel bad for him."
Nonetheless, "public officials ought to be very careful about what they say that could be construed as condoning or encouraging vigilante justice," said David Rudovsky, a law professor at the University of Pennsylvania.
Mayor Nutter said yesterday that he did not condone "vigilantism out in our streets, but it's indicative of the anger and compassion that many of our citizens have."
"It's a further demonstration that Philadelphians care passionately about this city, about our quality of life, and certainly about our children," he added.
Although Carrasquillo has not been charged in the rape - he is being held on a bench warrant in a previous case - "I'm sure he'll be in court to face these charges," said Lt. Frank Vanore, a Philadelphia police spokesman.
Vanore said residents who confronted crime suspects on the street should "call 911 and let us handle it."
"Obviously, that's what we always encourage. If that person had a gun or a weapon, you could be hurt," he said. "We go through a whole lot of training and we carry guns, and we still have officers killed trying to take people into custody."
Investigators are looking into whether Carrasquillo, whose record includes at least 12 convictions for offenses such as drugs and assault, could be responsible for any other attacks in the area, Vanore said.
Carrasquillo was charged with attempted rape and aggravated assault in 2002, but those charges were withdrawn, according to court records.
The victim of Monday's rape, who underwent surgery after the attack, was released from a hospital yesterday.
The girl is improving, Ramsey said, but "she still has a way to go, both physically and emotionally."
She was abducted shortly after dropping her sister off at a day care center and continuing on to school about 8:20 a.m.
A man approached her on Kensington Avenue, indicated that he had a gun, and forced her to follow him into an alley, where he raped her repeatedly behind a house, police said.
Legal experts said the Kensington residents risked being charged because they could not argue self-defense and may have used more force than necessary to detain Carrasquillo.
McNesby said early yesterday that he did not think residents would be charged because Carrasquillo had tried to run away.
But, he said, the situation would have been different had police administered a similar beating to a fleeing suspect.
"If they were police officers on tape, they'd be arrested," he said.