Capitol Hill rape case wasn't highlighted because victim was a man, cops say

Earlier this month, we told you about a reported sexual assault of a man in Capitol Hill by two still-unknown male assailants.

Afterward, a reader argued that the case had gotten so much attention because the victim was male, whereas incidents of women being raped in Capitol Hill happen frequently and are seldom reported. But a Denver police spokesman denies that gender was a factor in the department's decision to publicize the crime.

As we've reported, the DPD says the incident took place at around 12:30 a.m. on March 10. The victim was walking near the intersection of East 13th Avenue and North Emerson Street when he was taken to a nearby location by two men, both of whom sexually assaulted him.

Here's a sketch of the first suspect:

The DPD's description of the suspect reads: "A medium-skin-toned black male in his mid-twenties with a small afro. He was about 6'1" to 6'2" tall, weighing 135 to 140 lbs. He had a noticeable scar over his left eye, through his eyebrow. He was wearing a red shirt with no collar with black lettering on the front. He wore a dark-colored hooded sweat jacket, blue or black jeans and black sneakers. He was also wearing a gold watch with a gold sectioned band on his right arm."

This is an illustration of suspect number two:

The DPD description, which references observations by the victim: "A white male in his mid-twenties, with brownish blonde hair in a short buzz cut. He was 6'1" to 6'2" tall with a very muscular build and weighing about 200 lbs. He was wearing a black, shiny windbreaker-type jacket, dark jeans and Nike high-top tennis shoes. He had a tattoo on his right forearm that he described as letters in a language other than English, but not Chinese. The suspect had a silver ring on one of his fingers that looked like a large class ring. He stated that suspect #2 had a deep voice."

Was the crime alert sent out the media organizations like this one in part because a man was sexually assaulted -- a less common offense than if women are the victims? Absolutely not, says Lieutenant Matt Murray, spokesman for the Denver Police Department.

"The decision to send out information to the community is not based on the sex of the victim, or race, or any of those things," Murray says. "The decision is based on the elements of the crime."

The key factor in this instance, Murray goes on, was the fact that the suspects were strangers to the victim -- meaning that the local citizenry needs to know that men fitting the descriptions above are still out there, and could potentially attack more innocent people.

As for the overall number of sexual assaults in Capitol Hill, there have been plenty of them, unfortunately, over the past year.

Continue to see a map of sexual assaults in Capitol Hill and more of our interview with Lieutenant Matt Murray. The City of Denver's website offers searchable crime maps by neighborhood. Here's one for sexual assault in Capitol Hill from March 25, 2012 through March 23, 2013 -- the latter being the most recent date available.

Each circle marks a crime, which can range from fondling to rape, with circles featuring numbers denoting multiple offenses at that location. By our count, 24 sexual assaults have taken place in Capitol Hill over the past year.

Why has the general public learned about so relatively few of these incidents, most of which presumably involve female victims? "A lot of women who are sexually assaulted are attacked by someone known to them," Murray says. "And if it's date rape or allegations of non-consensual sex involving someone they know, we may have a specific suspect."

In those instances, typically, crime alerts are not sent to the media, because detectives already have a target for their investigation. When strangers are involved, though, the police need the public's help to identify them -- hence the releases. "We based our decision on the crime and the future danger to the community," Murray stresses.

Our reader also saw the use of police sketches as unusual, seeing in the extra investigatory element another indication that more effort was being put into investigating this particular sex assault than those against women. Not true, Murray counters. The reason police sketches are rarely seen these days, he says, "is because there's so much video. We're able to get pictures a lot more easily than we have in the past, so sketches are kind of going away. But we still use sketches, as anybody who follows us on social media knows."

The bottom line from Murray's perspective is that the Denver police treat all crimes equally, without factoring in gender, race or any other similar factor. Likewise, the DPD wouldn't resist sending out a crime alert on a sexual assault "if it's male on male. We would feel just as much obligation in that circumstance as we would with a female victim."

In regard to the March 10 sexual assault, Murray says a number of tips came in following the many subsequent media reports. Investigators are currently following them up in the hope of bringing the two men to justice. If you recognize either of the suspects from the sketches above, phone Crime Stoppers at 720-913-STOP (7867). An award of up to $2,000 is being offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible.

More from our Colorado Crimes archive: "Man raped on Capitol Hill: See sketches of two suspects here."

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