Richmond rape witness describes the assault

November 12, 2009 11:16:14 AM PST
He was at first arrested, then released for lack of evidence, now Salvador Rodriguez says he was the only one who tried to help the 16-year-old Richmond High School student who was gang raped outside her homecoming dance.

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"She was by herself, she was naked and I tried to help her and I reached for her and she started screaming and I said, 'Hey, I don't want to hurt you, I just want to help, that's all I want to do is just help you,'" Rodriguez said. "So she stopped screaming, it's as if she knew, you know, I wasn't trying to do nothing and then I grabbed my t-shirt and covered her up with it."

Speaking publicly for the first time, the 21-year-old said he was skateboarding outside Richmond High the night of the dance. He saw that a group had formed on a poorly lit section of campus; what he saw when he got there was horrific.

"They were kicking her in her head and they were beating her up, robbing her and ripping her clothes off; it's something you can't get out your mind," Rodriguez said.

Police say the rape went on for 2.5 hours and that as many as 10 people may have participated while 20 others watched and did nothing.

"I saw people, like, dehumanizing her; I saw some pretty crazy stuff," Rodriguez said.

ABC7 spoke to another witness to the rape. He was summoned over by another bystander watching the attack.

"She was pretty quiet; I thought she was like dead for a minute but then I saw her moving around, I was like, 'Oh,'" the 16-year-old witness said.

He says he never called police because he did not have a cell phone, and he was scared.

"I really wanted to help her but I don't know, I just didn't," he said.

He watched for 15-20 minutes. Not even his family knows he was there.

"I feel like I could have done something but I don't feel like I have any responsibility for anything that happened," he said.

Rodriquez says he knew at least one of the attackers and tried to stop the group from taking pictures of the victim on their cell phone.

"I just see like everybody going crazy and messing with her and I was like, 'Hey man, calm down, leave her alone, that's a little girl,' you don't do nothing like that,' cuz I got two 15-year-old sisters myself," Rodriquez said.

He wishes he could have done more, but now he fears being labeled as a snitch. He is friends with one of the suspects in custody.

"People say, 'Why didn't I call the cops,' but at the same time, I live in Richmond, a neighborhood like this, snitching is something you don't do, you know, I mean I have to walk down the streets now in fear of my life," Rodriquez said.

Police are still awaiting results from DNA evidence taken from the crime scene. If there is a match, Rodriquez could be rearrested.

The six people who have been charged in the homecoming assault appeared in court again Tuesday. They did not enter pleas, but they remain in custody, and could be sent to prison for life if convicted. Three of those in custody are juveniles being charged as adults.

The witnesses who watched but did nothing cannot be charged with a crime because California law states that the girl would have had to be 14 years old for it to be a crime.

A fund has been specifically set up to benefit the young woman and her family. Parties may send a check to Richmond High School, 1250 23rd St., Richmond , CA 94804. Checks should be made out to "Richmond High School Student Fund" with "Sex assault victim" on the memo line.

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