Richmond rape witness comes out of hiding

December 23, 2009 12:00:00 AM PST
The key witness to the brutal gang rape of a Richmond High School student came out of the shadows Thursday. After weeks in hiding Salvador Rodriguez resurfaced to speak exclusively with ABC7 News before going back underground again.

Rodriguez had been reported missing by his family, but resurfaced Wednesday to let them know he was safe. Once a suspect in the Richmond High rape case, Rodriguez is now considered a key witness.

"I look over my shoulder, I look all around, 360 degrees, everywhere now," Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez now lives every day in fear. Rodriguez says he gets recognized on the streets. He says he cannot get a job because no one will hire him. He has had to live on friends' couches.

"I'm scared of a lot of things, really, I'm just scared for my life, I just want everything to go back to normal," he said.

But life may never go back to normal. The image of 21-year-old Rodriguez in handcuffs made national news when he was arrested after the October attack.

He was skateboarding near Richmond High School the night of the attack. He noticed the crowd gathered in a poorly lit section of campus and found his friends participating in the rape.

Rodriguez says he fought one of the attackers and tried to help the victim by giving her his shirt.

Police say he fled the scene when they arrived.

"I'm there at the scene, they're flashing a light at me and I'm not wearing a t-shirt; I'm looking at it from their view, 'Oh, that's looking bad right there,' I need to go, so I left," Rodriguez said.

He was released for lack of evidence and is now considered a primary witness and a snitch on the streets of Richmond.

Fearing someone wanted him hurt or worse, family members reported Rodriguez missing when he failed to contact them for three weeks earlier this month.

Rodriguez will not say where was during that time, only that he was safe.

"I kind of felt like I had to get away for a little bit because everywhere I went I got attention for the wrong things," he said.

Now he wants to do the right thing by taking the stand against the six defendants accused of raping the girl. They range in age from 15-21. Some went to school with the victim, now, they all face life in prison.

"Man these people, I was so close to and now I gotta be the one like, 'Yeah he did that, he did that, give them life,' Rodriguez said. "The sense that I have that is a lot of pressure, a lot of weight. I don't want to be that person but I guess I really ain't got no choice."


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