OP, Forest Park cops nab Wrigleyville rape suspect

Suspect in two earlier rapes caught after allegedly assaulting woman near Forest Park Blue Line station. This time the victim fought back.

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By BILL DWYER

Thanks to a quick response by Forest Park and Oak Park police and gutsy defiance by a woman under assault, a suspect sought by Chicago police in two recent sexual assaults in Chicago's Wrigleyville neighborhood was arrested New Year's Eve. Paul Cruikshank, 24, of the 4000 block of Cullerton in Chicago, was arrested by an Oak Park tactical team after boarding a PACE bus following an attempted rape in Forest Park. He has reportedly given videotaped confessions to both the Chicago and Forest Park attacks, and has been charged with eight felonies. Cruikshank had his first court appearance Tuesday at noon in Violence Court, after press time, for a bond hearing.

Forest Park police received a cell phone call reporting a "violent disturbance" around 11 p.m., Dec. 31, from a caller who was unfamiliar with the area. After police dispatchers got the woman to locate a street sign, Forest Park police were able to quickly locate her. According to Forest Park Police Sergeant Steve Zanoni, the woman, whom he would only describe as "23 or 24" and as being not particularly big, was bleeding from several facial injuries suffered during her struggle with her assailant.

It could have been worse?#34;Cruikshank allegedly was carrying an ice pick and masking tape at the time of his arrest.

The assailant, whom the woman had noticed during her train ride in from Chicago's North Side, had followed the woman across the Circle Avenue bridge and for another block south after both detrained at the Circle Avenue Blue Line station in Forest Park, according to Zanoni. The woman, who was in Forest Park to visit friends, apparently began walking west onto Lexington Avenue, where the man grabbed her by the arm and dragged her into a nearby alley. When he attempted to rape her, the woman fought back and, despite being punched repeatedly, eventually managed to break free and call for help on her cell phone. "She just knew that she'd be in a fight for her life, and just fought him off," said Zanoni, who said the woman told police that she punched and kicked her assailant.

The woman also screamed at her attacker, alerting a man who lived in a nearby house. According to Zanoni, that man came out and questioned Cruikshank about what was happening. Cruikshank, said Zanoni, then "took of running."

After obtaining a general description of the assailant, Forest Park police broadcast the information on their radio band, which is shared by Oak Park. Members of an Oak Park tactical unit called the Street Crimes Team, were already in the vicinity patrolling a bit south of the incident scene, on Roosevelt Road near Harlem Avenue. When Cruikshank showed up on the Oak Park side of Harlem near the Eisenhower el stop, Tactical Officer Chris Pedicini and Detective Jim Sperandio were already in place, watching the area as a possible escape route by the Forest Park assault suspect. They spotted Cruikshank walking near Harlem and kept him under observation. When they saw him cross the street and board a south bound PACE bus, they stopped the vehicle and boarded it.

Cruikshank was reportedly found "hiding behind the driver," according to Pedicini. He offered neither resistance nor comment to the two cops.

"He submitted to arrest immediately," said Sperandio. "No fight, no discussion."

Oak Park Deputy Chief Robert Scianna praised the two veteran officers, who did not have a description of the suspect when first alerted to the assault, for their solid street instincts.

"If they hadn't spotted him and kept an eye on him, he'd have made good his escape," said Scianna.

Forest Park Police Chief Jim Ryan praised the aggressive police techniques of both his and the Oak Park departments. "What I really respect," said Ryan, "is how aggressive these officers are. When there's a [situation], they're all over it."

As Pedicini and Sperandio were taking Cruikshank into custody, at least eight Oak Park and Forest Park squads were converging on the scene to back them up. He was turned over to Forest Park officers Nick Kozak and Mike O'Connor, who brought him to the Forest Park station, where investigators noted Cruikshank's similarity to the composite sketch released by Chicago Police of a man sought in relationship to the two Wrigleyville rapes. While subsequently interrogating Cruikshank, detectives learned that he had traveled by el from the Wrigleyville area, and immediately contacted Chicago police, who then sent their investigators out to Forest Park in the middle of the night.

Chicago police conducted lineups on Sunday, during which, they say, both rape victims identified Cruikshank as the individual who assaulted them. That development, along with other information that Forest Park and Chicago officers were able to gain from Cruikshank led him to make videotaped confessions, according to Chicago Police Commander Michael Chasen. Cruikshank, who had no previous criminal record, has been charged with Attempted Criminal Sexual Assault and Kidnapping by the Cook County State's Attorney's office in relation to the Forest Park incident. He also faces a variety of felony charges relating to the two Chicago rapes that occurred on Dec. 18 and 20, including Aggravated Sexual Assault, Home Invasion, Aggravated Kidnapping and Armed Robbery.

Besides thanking the Oak Park and Forest Park departments, Chasen thanked personnel from the U.S. Marshall's office, the Chicago Police gang unit, the Chicago Police Transportation Unit, and the State Police Crime Lab, all of whom helped in the intense investigation.

Chasen also praised the courage and cooperation of the two previous victims. "I've got to thank two courageous young women who assisted our detectives in hours of interviews," said Chasen. "They didn't hesitate to come forward when we asked them to. We will certainly continue to support them throughout the prosecutorial phase of this investigation."

For Oak Park Police Chief Rick Tanksley, an ardent proponent of cross-jurisdictional cooperation among law enforcement, the apprehension of Cruikshank was particularly satisfying.

"Successful policing in the Chicago metropolitan area depends upon communication and cooperation among local law enforcement," said Tanksley. "This was a prime example of that communication and cooperation. This is a good thing, that three departments were able to work together to take this predator off the street."

CONTACT: bdwyer@wjinc.com

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