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'Person of interest' held in child-rape case

The man sought in connection with the rape of an 11-year-old girl this week was arrested late yesterday after residents in Kensington noticed him on the street and beat him before police arrived.

"We just pounded on him because we wanted him arrested," said Kris Torres (right), with Louis Rodriguez, of Jose Carrasquillo (inset).
"We just pounded on him because we wanted him arrested," said Kris Torres (right), with Louis Rodriguez, of Jose Carrasquillo (inset).Read more

The man sought in connection with the rape of an 11-year-old girl this week was arrested late yesterday after residents in Kensington noticed him on the street and beat him before police arrived.

Jose Carrasquillo, 26, was spotted near Front and Clearfield Streets yesterday afternoon, less than two miles from the backyard where the girl's assault took place Monday morning - and only a few hours after police released his name and photograph to the public and termed him a "person of interest."

The angry crowd quickly swarmed Carrasquillo and began pummeling him, police said, and one person apparently used a wooden board.

After police arrived, Carrasquillo was taken to Temple University Hospital with head injuries, said Lt. Frank Vanore. He was expected to recover.

Police said Carrasquillo, who was arrested on a bench warrant in a previous case, was likely to be charged in the rape.

Police found physical evidence in the yard where the girl was attacked that links Carrasquillo to the assault, Capt. John Darby of the Special Victims Unit said yesterday. He declined to elaborate but added: "We know he was at the scene."

Last night, people in Kensington described how Carrasquillo was taken down.

Carrasquillo was seen by residents walking west on Clearfield toward Front about 3:15 p.m. A block before Front, at Lee Street, several males, including at least two teens, confronted the suspect.

"Hey, yo! You raped this girl," one of the teens told the suspect, according to Kris Torres, 16, who was part of the group of three or four. The suspect denied it.

"No. I have a daughter myself," said Carrasquillo, according to Torres.

But the neighborhood was convinced he was the suspect because detectives came to the area in the morning showing a photograph to residents. Torres said the teens, including himself, started hitting the suspect.

"We just pounded on him because we wanted him arrested," Torres said.

The suspect, however, continued to deny he was the attacker, said Louis Rodriguez, 16, who said he also was involved in the beat-down. "Stop! It wasn't me," the man yelled, according to Rodriguez.

The suspect tried to walk away but was knocked down along the side of a corner store at Front and Clearfield Streets.

A large crowd then gathered and urged the teens to pummel the suspect. The beating was captured on videotape by an outside security camera just down the street.

"I was saying, 'He wants to rape babies? Kill him!' " said Linda Steeves, 38, who saw the drama unfold from her porch on Lee Street. "Everybody was applauding."

The suspect was known in the area because he lived nearby on Wishart Street, residents said.

They said that on Monday evening, he was sitting on some steps drinking a beer - the same steps where he was beaten yesterday.

"The community took justice into their own hands," Steeves said. "The community wanted a piece of that man."

The suspect was saved when a police car stopped and officers took him into custody. The suspect continued to proclaim his innocence as he sat in the police car, witnesses said.

News of the rape on Monday also sparked outrage among law enforcement officers. The girl, who had been on her way to school, was forced to walk with her assailant down several crowded blocks in broad daylight, then endured what authorities called a "sadistic" attack.

The Fraternal Order of Police posted a $10,000 reward in the case, and police distributed fliers bearing Carrasquillo's face to residents and members of the news media.

"This was a particularly heinous crime," Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey said before the arrest was made. "This person needs to come off our streets as soon as possible."

"Everybody took this case personally," Vanore said yesterday. "A lot of officers have children that age, and a lot of people in this area have children that age."

Carrasquillo has a history of drug charges and other offenses, according to court records, and at least 12 convictions. He has pleaded guilty to manufacturing drugs, driving under the influence, and simple assault. He was charged with attempted rape and aggravated assault in 2002, according to court records, but those charges were later withdrawn.

Carrasquillo, who has several addresses in Kensington and North Philadelphia, served five years in prison on drug charges, according to the Pennsylvania parole board, the maximum sentence possible. Carrasquillo was denied parole after serving the first two years of his sentence because he had not received positive recommendations from his jail supervisors, said Leo Dunn, spokesman for the board.

Carrasquillo was arrested on drug-possession charges in September, five months after his release and while he was still on probation. He is scheduled to appear for trial next month.

The attack happened sometime after 8:20 Monday morning. The girl was walking along the 3000 block of Kensington Avenue with a younger sibling, whom she dropped off at day care before continuing to school.

That stretch of Kensington Avenue, which runs underneath the El, is busy and lined with storefronts, restaurants, and other businesses. In the mornings, it is bustling with parents taking their children to school.

Near Orleans Street, the girl was approached by a man who threatened to shoot her if she didn't do what he asked, police said. He never displayed a gun, but walked with the girl for six or seven blocks until they turned off Kensington Avenue onto Westmoreland Street. When they arrived outside a house on the 2000 block of East Westmoreland, the man raped her repeatedly behind the dwelling, Darby said.

He then left, and the victim made her way to nearby Cornwall Street, where a passerby found her shortly before 10 a.m. and called 911.

The girl was taken to St. Christopher's Hospital for Children, where she underwent surgery for severe injuries sustained in the attack, police said. She was in stable condition last night.

At Russell H. Conwell Middle School, where the girl is a student, extra security was in place yesterday morning and afternoon, said Fernando Gallard, a school district spokesman. Counseling was offered to students and staff.

Gallard was relieved to hear of the arrest. "We're hoping this is the individual," he said. "That would be great news for all of us."