The Mobile Police Department is investigating two rapes reportedly committed by men the female victims met in downtown Mobile’s entertainment district.
On Monday, Chief Lawrence Battiste confirmed MPD was investigating the pair of sexual assaults, which were reported the weekends of Oct. 1 and Nov. 11. While the investigation is still in its initial stages, Battiste said there are some similarities between the two reports.
The chief’s comments came after a server at the LoDa Bier Garten restaurant on Dauphin Street detailed what she and other employees were allegedly told by an MPD investigator in a social media post that quickly went viral. So far, it’s been shared more than 700 times.
“A detective just stopped by and let one of our servers know that he’s looking for two men; one white guy with blonde streaks in his hair, the other is a black guy and he’s bald,” the post reads. “They’re both between 20-30 years old, and they’re apparently hanging around downtown telling girls they’re in the military, coaxing them away and raping them.”
Battiste confirmed most of those details but didn’t add much about the investigation, which has only recently been evaluated as a case potentially involving the same suspects. He did say that only the rape reported over the Nov. 11 weekend involved a second, Caucasian male, adding that the victim in October reported a single, African-American suspect.
According to Battiste, there doesn’t appear to be a specific characteristic that the perpetrators might have targeted the victims for, though he did note that there have only been two cases reported. Instead, he suggested the women may have been “targets of opportunity” who may have left an area downtown by themselves.
However, Battiste appeared to downplay concerns that there might be a serial rapist in Mobile.
“We don’t have any additional incidents in that immediate area that would suggest we have a major problem,” he said. “Looking at these from my perspective, it would appear the individuals that may be responsible used a similar tactic to get young people’s attention — indicating they were in the military and getting them to befriend them and going off with them.”
The initial rape reported on the weekend of Oct. 1 wasn’t listed in the “weekend recap” of notable crimes MPD regularly provides to local media outlets, and as such, wasn’t reported to the public. When asked why, Battiste said “there are a lot of isolated rape incidents.”
“There was nothing dramatic about that particular incident and no pattern that suggested we needed to sound an alarm about something going on,” he added. “One rape is one too many, but we hadn’t seen a pattern of rape or sexual assaults in the area. When we did, we immediately got out and canvassed the community. This is the second incident of that nature.”
While Battiste said investigators were continuing their work to bring the responsible individuals to justice, he also encouraged residents to be mindful of their surroundings when going out and consuming alcohol at bars and restaurants downtown, or anywhere else.
“Young people, particularly when you’re going anywhere to party, make sure you take close friends with you — people that are going to pay attention to you and what you’re doing,” Battiste said. “Be careful what you drink, who you associate with and make sure you go in groups because, obviously, people are less likely to become victims if they’re with a group of people.”
As the investigation continues, authorities are asking the public for assistance. Anyone with information about the rapes reported on the weekends of Oct. 1 or Nov. 11 is asked to contact Sgt. Joe Cotner with MPD at 251-432-1101 or 251-208-7975.