Balboa Park rape suspect arrested, second victim comes forward
SAN DIEGO (KUSI) — The San Diego Police Department arrested the man suspected of repeatedly raping a woman in Balboa Park at knife-point. 27-year-old Ismael Hernandez was booked into San Diego Central Jail early Sunday morning on suspicion of 10 felonies including rape by force, kidnapping for rape, penetration by a foreign object, oral copulation by force, three counts of attempted sexual assault, using a dangerous weapon during an assault, making a criminal threat and false imprisonment.
The reported rape occurred Thursday night at approximately 10 p.m. The victim was walking alone on the 1600 block of 8th Ave. when the knife-wielding suspect made contact with the woman and forced her to walk into Balboa Park. The suspect reportedly threatened the victim at knife-point before sexually assaulting her a first time. She we then sexually assaulted a second time after the suspect forced her to walk to the 1600 block of 9th Ave.
San Diego Police Captain Brian Ahearn held a press conference Sunday to address the latest developments in the case and revealed a second victim came forward following news reports of the rape in Balboa Park.
"What we learned during the initial preliminary was that there was another incident, previous to the Balboa Park case. I’ll refer to that other incident as Victim No. 1, and essentially what happened was Victim No. 1 was in the area of 6th Ave. and Cedar St., it was also Thursday night May 5th," Capt. Ahearn said. "It was in close proximity to the time when Victim No. 2 was contacted by the suspect, but it was before that contact took place."
"Victim No. 1 was in the area of 6th Ave. and Cedar St. to purchase food. While she was inside this building to purchase food she noticed that a male was outside looking toward her through the windows. There was also a worker inside the building who saw the same thing."
"As the female Victim No. 1 exited the building with her food she walked over to her car that was parked in the area. As she walked up to her car she noticed a male in the reflection of her car window approaching her from behind. We believe the male in that case is going to be our suspect in Victim No. 2’s case, Mr. Hernandez," Ahearn said.
The suspect repeatedly told Victim No. 1 "don’t say anything," according to Ahearn. The victim threw her food at the suspect to distract him and back away from him before re-entering the building she initially noticed the assailant.
"Based upon information we received from the public. Based upon the news reports and Crime Stoppers tips, investigators developed information throughout [Saturday] that led us to the suspect Mr. Hernandez. We believe he was residing in the city of Chula Vista. We worked throughout the day to develop information and to look at any other possibilities, and we were certain that Mr. Hernandez was the suspect."
Ahearn did not disclose Hernandez’s criminal history. When asked if there were other potential victims that have not been identified Ahearn indicated there is "certainly a possibility," but no reports of additional crimes have been made.
San Diego Crime Stoppers released a composite sketch of the suspect Friday night, calling on the public to help authorities identify the suspect. Capt. Ahearn did not reveal how many tips they received, but cited the public’s involvement as one of the reasons they were able to make an arrest as quickly as they did. He was also clear that both victims were keys in the investigative process.
"The victims have been steadfast throughout this whole process. They’re survivors and they have been very actively involved in our investigation. Working very closely with investigators in a very, very traumatic situation," Ahearn said. "They have been up basically working all night alongside our investigators and their participation in the investigative process has been really a huge difference and a huge factor in leading us to Mr. Hernandez, and ultimately taking him into custody."
Ahearn noted the involvement in tips from the public, and the cooperation of both victims as major contributing factors to the process. When asked if this was a victory for the San Diego Police Department, he gave the credit on the public and the women who were assaulted.
"This is a victory for the citizens of San Diego who got involved with the process and provided information to the department. To have the victims be so strong and heroic throughout the investigation and not wavering at all, giving us the motivation to continue to move forward and to follow every lead and leave no stone unturned," Ahearn said. "Perhaps it’s poetic, but I do know that Victim No. 2 is a mother, so for her to be able to celebrate Mother’s Day knowing that the suspect has been apprehended, and that her and the other victim were instrumental in that process. I can’t speak of the trauma that they’re going through, but I just want them to know that they played a huge role in helping us, along with the community in helping us find Mr. Hernandez and taking him into custody."
"I hope that she can take some consolation in knowing on this Mother’s Day that she was instrumental in taking him off the streets."
The investigative process is still ongoing.