Although police arrested a 16-year-old suspect Saturday afternoon in connection with one of at least four recent attacks on women in Allentown, the lower West Side and the Elmwood Village, the violence still has residents on high alert.
In Allentown on Wednesday evening, six women walked as a group before heading to the Justin Timberlake concert at First Niagara Center.
A couple locked arms while crossing the street.
A 24-year-old woman, close in age to the rape victims, said she was going to buy pepper spray after dinner.
They all said they were being cautious – but were upset it had to be that way.
“I’m disgusted, and I feel like it’s a shame because this is a neighborhood that’s slowly been coming back,” said Monique Fortunato-Lester, who is in the process of opening an upscale lounge on Elmwood Avenue with her husband, Bryan.
“All my life I’ve been cautious but not fearful, and I don’t want to become fearful, because that’s when they win. But at the same time, you have to be cautious.”
As a safety precaution, Fortunato-Lester utilized the buddy system with her friend, Jennifer Dombrowski.
“We come together in one car even when it’s daylight out because of this,” Fortunato-Lester said.
Added Dombrowski, “I was afraid to walk by myself, and I’ve been in Buffalo, and I’ve always walked these streets. Now I don’t feel safe.”
MarySue Feldman, who lives off Allen Street, said she often walks in the area at various times of the day and night. She said her friends have been walking with her, and others have asked her to call when she arrives home.
“I resent that I have to be cautious of where I go and what I do,” Feldman said. “This is upsetting because I walk Allentown. I love Buffalo. I love the area. I feel safe here, and when stuff like that happens, I don’t feel so safe.”
Dionte M. Cooper of Porter Avenue was charged with first-degree rape in connection with the sex attack early Saturday on a 24-year-old woman near Elmwood and Allen Street, the Buffalo Police Department said Wednesday.
Cooper also faces charges of criminal sexual act in the first degree, petit larceny and criminal possession of stolen property.
Central District police and Buffalo Police Sex Offense Squad Detective Natalie Perez investigated the incident and arrested Cooper at about 2 p.m. Saturday, said Michael DeGeorge, Buffalo police department spokesman.
DeGeorge said police did not announce the arrest until Wednesday because of the continuing investigation. He said at least one more arrest in connection with the attacks on women is likely soon.
Cooper has a Facebook page, on which he claims affiliation with the LRGP street gang. He also says on the Facebook page that he is a student at South Park High School.
Cooper is accused of dragging the woman into an alley, knocking her to the ground, sexually assaulting her and stealing her cellphone before fleeing on foot.
Cooper was located on Linwood Avenue and brought to police headquarters for questioning. He was charged by Officers John A. Lattanzio and Melissa G. Brinson.
Surveillance cameras and business security cameras aided in the investigation, DeGeorge said.
The woman was treated in Erie County Medical Center for injuries from the attack, authorities said.