Gunman Sought in Five Rapes

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A gun-wielding rapist has assaulted five young women in the Belmont Heights area of Long Beach during the last 2 1/2 weeks, Long Beach police reported Saturday.

Four of the attacks occurred in the last week, two on Thursday, investigators said. The attacks took place in the afternoon, as the women were returning home from work, police said.

The victims have all been in their 20s and 30s. The first attack occurred Feb. 21 in the 3200 block of Colorado Street. The following week, attacks were reported on Gaviota Avenue, East 1st Street and Livingston Drive, police said.

In two cases, the attacker rode up on a bicycle as the women returned home; in a third case, the rapist was driving a stolen car, police said. One of the victims was assaulted after she entered a vacant rental unit to inspect it, police reported.

"The suspect usually confronts his victims on foot as they arrive home," said Detective Randi Castillo. All of the women were threatened with a handgun, she reported.

Police said the rapist is a black man, 22 to 28 years old, 5-foot-11 to 6-foot-1, weighing 170 to 190 pounds. The victims reported that he wore dark clothing, was clean-shaven and had a lean, muscular build. His black hair was cut in a flat-top and shaved on the sides, Castillo said.

Meanwhile, police in San Clemente said they are searching for another rapist who has attacked five women in that beach city over the last six months. In the most recent case, police report that the man broke into a home and assaulted a woman on Tuesday.

State crime statistics show that the incidence of rape was on the increase last year, reversing a downward trend, and some experts say the number of serial rapes may be on the increase.

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