A 10-year-old girl on an errand for her aunt was abducted near a Southeast Washington elementary school playground Thursday and forced into a wooded area, where she was raped, D.C. police and school officials reported yesterday.
D.C. Police Inspector Richard J. Pennington said last night that Joe Anthony Barber, 26, of the 1500 block of Bruce Place SE, was arrested and charged with rape in connection with the assault. Barber was being held last night at D.C. police headquarters, Pennington said.
The girl was treated at a hospital and released, officials said.
Thursday's incident follows reports of two other sexual assaults on students and a kidnaping that officials said had "sexual overtones" at Bancroft Elementary School in Northwest in the last three weeks.
"This whole situation is one that causes great concern and alarm to us with respect to the safety of our children," said Floretta McKenzie, D.C. school superintendent. "We have had other incidents in the past, but they have not occurred in this pattern, this quickly."
McKenzie said she met yesterday with D.C. Police Chief Maurice T. Turner to "put together new strategies" to try to prevent future assaults on schoolchildren.
But, she said, "We need the help of the entire community. I don't believe school officials and the police alone can protect the children. It will require the involvement of all adults."
In an interview yesterday, the girl told a reporter that she was returning home at 5:30 p.m. Thursday after running an errand for her aunt at a local store when she cut through the playground behind the Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School, Sixth Street and Alabama Avenue SE. The school, the old Congress Heights Elementary School, had closed at 3 p.m., officials said. The girl is a student at another Southeast school.
As she was walking on a sidewalk that separates the playground and a wooded area, the girl said, a man "came up behind me. I started walking faster, then he grabbed me around the neck and put his hand over my mouth and said if I screamed he'd kill me."
The man forced her into the woods, down a hill to a small creek, where he raped her, she said. As he assaulted her, she said, he held a stone to her head and threatened to "bash my head in" if she resisted.
Afterwards, he used pieces of her clothing to bind her hands and feet and stuck a sock in her mouth, she said. He then covered her with wood and debris and walked away, she said.
According to the girl, three teen-agers walking along the same sidewalk between the woods and playground heard her cries for help, untied and took her home.
School officials, who were criticized because they did not notify parents at Bancroft until after the third incident Monday, reacted swiftly yesterday, ordering local principals to inform staff and parents, said Calvin Lockridge, Ward 8 school board member.
There are six elementary schools, attended by about 2,800 students, within 10 blocks in that part of the city, known as Congress Heights.