An assault that Rutland City Police said involved a man who beat a 14-year-old boy on Seabury Street has created a firestorm on social media over the department’s handling of the nearly two-week-old case.
The assault, which took place Sept. 11, is under investigation but no arrest has been made, according to Police Chief James Baker.
“We’re hopeful that we can identify a suspect and make an arrest,” he said Friday. “We have leads. This case is very solvable.”
A surveillance camera mounted on the school’s roof recorded the attack, the chief said.
But while police have the video and two witnesses, Baker said investigators are waiting to obtain one more undisclosed piece of information before an arrest can be made.
“We’re still chasing down some things,” he said. “What we’re waiting for is out of our control.”
The man, who witnesses said appeared to be about 30 years old, also stole the teenager’s iPhone, the chief said.
“We’re investigating this as an assault and robbery,” Baker said.
No photo of the suspect was released by police, but Baker described the attacker as a white male with blond facial hair and multiple tattoos. The man is approximately 5 feet 10 inches tall and weighs about 200 pounds, he said.
The lack of an arrest in the case has frustrated the teenager’s family and a number of residents who have posted a flurry of messages on Facebook in recent days.
Most of the social media comments were critical of the police response. There was widespread concern among posters that the assailant posed a danger to other children in the community.
Baker said he didn’t think such a danger existed and he said there was no evidence that the crime was related to drugs.
“We do not think this is a pattern of conduct,” he said. “It appears to relate to a specific set of circumstances.”
That assertion did little to quell the concerns of Misti Baker, who said her son Kalib was the teenager who was assaulted.
“He said it’s an isolated incident and the public shouldn’t be worried and that’s good but the guy is still out there who assaulted my son,” she said. “There’s a grown man out there who assaulted a 14-year-old child.”
For more than a week, Misti Baker said she and her family and friends had scoured Rutland searching for the man her son described. In addition to the description provided by the police, Misti Baker said her son recalled that the man wore a bandanna, had sunken cheeks and no teeth.
“We’ve driven every street in the city for 16 to 20 hours a day,” she said.
She has also pressed police for information about the investigation which in her estimation has moved painfully slow.
While she said her talks with the officer investigating the case and with Chief Baker have been courteous, she said she was surprised to learn from officials at the Rutland Intermediate School that police waited a week after the attack to get the surveillance video from the school.
“I don’t want to say they’re not doing anything but sometimes it seems they’re not doing enough,” she said.
She also disagreed with the police chief’s assessment of her son’s injuries.
On Friday, Baker said that while the boy required medical attention he was conscious and alert when police arrived and he said the injuries weren’t life-threatening.
The chief also said a bludgeoning instrument of some kind may have been used in the attack.
Misti Baker said her son said that bludgeoning instrument was a pipe that struck the teenager in the head.
She said her son was taken to the emergency room at Rutland Regional Medical Center after the assault and was later diagnosed with a major concussion. Bruises to Kalib’s face and neck remained visible for days after the assault, she said.
The police chief said his department wasn’t treating the matter lightly, but he also said many of the comments he’d read about the case on Facebook were inaccurate.
He also shouldered the blame for the uproar which he said was due to a lack of communication.
“We should’ve got a press release out sooner,” he said. “We need to recognize that when a 14-year-old is the victim of an assault people will be concerned about the safety of their kids. I’m going to follow up on it. Ultimately, it’s my responsibility to make sure the information gets out there.”
Anyone with information about the incident is asked to call city police at 773-1816.
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