MANATEE -- Bradenton Police Department Chief Michael Radzilowski said he wishes he had gone with his gut and issued a press release about a 15-year-old girl being raped last month in Bradenton.
Radzilowski said he followed a request from his detectives to not release information about the case -- even though it was the second case in Manatee in two months of a girl being attacked in daylight. (The girl in the earlier attack was not raped.)
“Our investigators had a sound argument that I still cannot disclose,” Radzilowski said. “The investigators talked me out of it.”
Information about the rape was not released to the public until Friday, after a third attack a day earlier in which a 12-year-old girl was assaulted in the 5500 block of 26th Street West.
Authorities said the suspect matched a description of the attacker in the Jan. 31 case and in the earlier attack Nov. 29 in the 5100 block of 51st Street West.
“It’s not like we were trying to hide it,” Radzilowski said. “The day that it happened we notified the school board. They could have issued a press release.”
School district spokeswoman Margi Nanney on Tuesday said the district did not disclose information about the Jan. 31 incident because it did not realize it might have been connected with the attack in November.
“We were given very little detail. It was a verbal notification and at that point they didn’t have an (idea) that it was the same person,” Nanney said.
Although Radzilowski couldn’t say why investigators argued against a press release, he said of the argument: “It was so sound. It made logical sense to hold out.
“We had information we were trying to act on.”
Detectives from the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office and Bradenton Police Department are working together on the case.
“We are getting some leads and working them right away,” said sheriff’s office spokesman Dave Bristow. “Hopefully sooner or later, one of them will develop into an arrest.”
The 12-year-old was attacked Feb. 10 as she was walking home from school in the rear parking lot of Christ United Methodist Church in the 5500 block of 26th Street West.
The suspect picked her up and carried her a short distance to a low hanging oak tree, according to a media release. The suspect then attempted to sexually assault her, but she told him there were people in the area and that he better leave.
Two different surveillance cameras captured images of the suspect, according to authorities.
The first incident occurred Nov. 29 when a 15-year-old was walking home from school in the 5100 block of 51st Street West. The girl managed to kick the attacker in the head while she was on the ground, and ran home to tell her mother about the incident, a report stated. The attacker ran off after the incident.
Another case involving a 15-year-old girl occurred Jan. 31 when she was grabbed from behind by a man in the 4900 block of 47th Avenue West, according to the Bradenton Police Department. She was sexually assaulted, and then the man fled.
The suspect, who is seen on two sets of surveillance video, is described as being between 18 and 30 years old and standing 6 feet tall with a thin build. He was wearing a dark hoodie with black basketball shorts.
The Gold Star Club of Manatee County is offering a reward of up to $10,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the suspect.
Anyone with information about these incidents can call the sheriff’s office at (941) 747-3011, the Bradenton Police Department at (941) 932-9301 or Crime Stoppers at (866) 634-TIPS.