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Videotape shows witnesses ignored woman cries for help
ST. PAUL, August 24, 2007 - A security video from an apartment hallway shows at least 10 witnesses ignored a woman's cries for help for more than an hour as a man beat and sexually assaulted her, prosecutors said Thursday.
Police said they responded to a call of drunken behavior, where they found Rage Ibrahim, 26, and a woman lying unconscious in the hallway early Tuesday. The woman's clothing had been pulled up, she had fresh scratches on her face and blood on her thigh, according to the criminal complaint.
Ibrahim says he is innocent and that the incident was a misunderstanding, according to Omar Jamal, the executive director of the Somali Justice Advocacy Center who spoke on Ibrahim's behalf.
Police spokesman Tom Walsh said the surveillance video clearly showed men and women looking out their apartment doors or starting to walk down the hallway before retreating as the woman was assaulted for nearly 90 minutes.
"It shows one person looking out of her door probably three times," Walsh said. "It shows another person walking up, observing what's going on, then turning and putting up the hood of his sweatshirt."
At one point, the 26-year-old woman knocked on a door, yelling for the occupants to call police. A man inside that apartment told police he didn't open the door or look out, but said he did call police - although they have no record of his call, according to court documents.
Police identified the attacker on the video as Ibrahim, 25, who was charged with several counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct, prosecutors said.
Ibrahim told police he did not assault the woman, saying if he wanted to do so he would have done it in the apartment, according to the criminal complaint.
The woman had been visiting the apartment of a friend, where she met Ibrahim. After drinking for several hours, she told police Ibrahim tried to stop her from leaving, and began to assault her, according to the report.
Walsh said police were shocked by the behavior of the bystanders.
"If you're not comfortable, if you don't feel capable of intervening, that's fine," Walsh said. "But not calling is not understandable."
Minnesota has a Good Samaritan law that makes it a petty misdemeanor not to give reasonable help to a person in danger of "grave physical harm."
Walsh said it's unlikely police would pursue charges against witnesses in this case because the burden of proof is so high - authorities would have to show that witnesses knew the woman was in extreme danger.
Jamal said Ibrahim went into the hallway after the woman because he thought she was too drunk to drive. They struggled over car keys, and "he is saying there was a huge misunderstanding," Jamal said, adding that the police report does not show "the truth of what happened that night."
"He did not rape her," Jamal said.