Oak Park women fought back in robbery, sexual assaults, police chief says

Cops nab suspect who allegedly fondled child, pushed women to ground


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By Jean Lotus

Forest Park Review Editor

Oak Park Police Chief Rick Tanksley praised two female victims who fought back against an attacker, Friday -- even though the offender claimed he was carrying a gun. Police said quick thinking by the two Oak Park women led to the man's arrest.

Oak Park police arrested a 27-year-old Richard E. Harris for attacking two women and sexually fondling a small child in attempted robberies.

Police said Harris allegedly approached a 43-year-old Oak Park woman in the 300 block of North Euclid around 2:35 p.m. and "attempted to engage her in conversation." He then allegedly told her he had a gun, pushed her to the ground, struck her and took her cell phone by force.

The first victim contacted Wednesday Journal to clarify the nature of the attacks.

"His intention was to rape me," the victim wrote in an email. "[The offender] choked me and tried to get me in a secluded location. I fought back for that. If he just wanted my cell phone, I would have handed it over. I offered him my wedding rings and he threw them on the ground. He decided to take my phone after he could hear my aunt on the other end yelling that she was calling the cops. I'm writing because I don't think every situation is worth a fight, but this one was," she wrote.

Police said after the victim fought back, Harris fled on foot.

Around 20 minutes later, at 2:55 p.m., Harris allegedly approached a 41-year-old woman and her young child  in the alley behind the 200 block of South Elmwood Avenue. He allegedly greeted the mother, announced he had a gun, then picked up the child and began to sexually fondle the child. He then allegedly put the child down and knocked the mother to the ground. The victim also fought back, police said.

"Fighting back can be risky, but sometimes it is necessary in situations such as these," said Tanksley in a statement. "By standing up to their attacker both vocally and physically, these brave women were able to escape a very bad situation and alert police."

No weapon was displayed or found, police said.

Police Saturday charged Harris, of the 3000 block of West Lexington Avenue with robbery, aggravated battery, unlawful restraint and aggravated criminal sexual abuse.

Harris is being held in Oak Park pending a bond hearing in Cook County Circuit Court.

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Reader Comments

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Posted: February 12th, 2015 7:13 AM

You wouldn't need to lock your doors and carry a gun if you weren't so concerned about offending outsiders rights. Not sure which is greater paranoia, locking up everything and carrying a gun thinking someone is going to violate you or worried about hurting some strangers feelings.

John Q  

Posted: February 11th, 2015 4:51 PM

Island Dweller what you described and what Brandon described are not the same. You described incidents that may be criminal or not but investigating them is warranted. Brandon simply said implied people who don't live in the neighborhood. I'm with you all the way. He doesn't know much about what he's talking about.

John Q  

Posted: February 11th, 2015 4:43 PM

Real cute Brandon. I noticed you didn't address lawsuits. What you think is my "logic" is probably just a better grasp of what is and is not constitutional. If the police just stop people, in an urban area, because they don't know them that will never hold up in court. Hopefully they stop all your friends and family visiting you as you are more understanding of how necessary it is than the rest of us. By the way I lock up my house and car doors and support concealed carry...wrong guy here.

Concerned from Oak park  

Posted: February 11th, 2015 11:15 AM

Why wasn't the high school put in lock down? It was letting out while this guy was roaming around.


Posted: February 11th, 2015 5:53 AM

JohnQ. I rather our police have to deal with BS profiling accusations than a child and two women being sexual assaulted. Add logic like yours to the crime problem in Oak Park.

Island Dweller   

Posted: February 10th, 2015 3:41 PM

making them feel like they're being profiled, and to leave the worry of profiling up to them. An example is, if you see a couple of teens that seem like they're from the west side, riding in one 1 bike, that's a red flag, because there's been lots of instances where 2 teens come on 1 bike and they leave with 2 bikes. Another is if you see scrap pickups trucks driving down alleys that don't have company names? some are licensed and some are not.

Island dweller   

Posted: February 10th, 2015 3:35 PM

John Q, while you make a valid point regarding profiling, I don't think it's black and white. Some people will go against their gut instinct and not call the police even if someone doesn't seem "right" because they don't want to come across as profiling. What the police have advised residents to do is, if we see someone or a group that seem like they might be up to no good (even if it's just a gut feeling), they want us to call them. They say that they have ways to approach people without

John Q  

Posted: February 10th, 2015 1:16 PM

Brandon: will you be there leading community support when the civil suits and officer complaints come in? If you think the goal of community policing is to convince adults that securing their own property is wise then you really don't understand it.

John Q  

Posted: February 10th, 2015 1:12 PM

Her: You do not need a weapon for robbery. If I push you into a wall and take your phone its a robbery. While this is Cook County and they will downgrade charges he did a lot more than battery. Brandon: You have an unrealistic and maybe unconstitutional view of community policing. Open doors will continue to draw thieves no matter what police do. Our beloved sister Evanston and several burbs have the same problem. You want them to stop everyone that doesn't "look" like one of the 52,000?

Phun with Comprehension  

Posted: February 10th, 2015 12:01 PM

@LKP: Um...it's in the first sentence. FRIDAY, whatever that date is. Not enough palm for my face...


Posted: February 10th, 2015 11:52 AM

Does anyone know what date this occurred on?

Winter Skye  

Posted: February 10th, 2015 11:28 AM

This is what I will never understand: how does someone from the 3000 block of Lexington get over here? Like he jumped on the EL and decided to pop over to Elmwood and grope kids? He lives around Kedzie and the Ike and so he embarked on quite the journey to wind up in OP.

By Any Meanz from Oak Park  

Posted: February 10th, 2015 10:18 AM

It would be interesting to see a follow up months or years later when this guy is finally sentenced, and see how much time he actually spends in prison for this. I would guess he gets a plea deal and most of the charges are dropped, gets 2 years, and serves maybe 1 year actual time.

D from Oak Park  

Posted: February 10th, 2015 9:07 AM

@HER- did you read the article?? Since when is sexual fondling of a small child not sexual abuse?!? It is sexual abuse of the absolute worst kind!!!


Posted: February 10th, 2015 8:36 AM

Guy, what does your typical low life thug look like? While it's true that you can never know 100% if someone is up to no good just by looking at them, you can use some common sense to narrow down who may or may not be up to no good. For example, a dad in a business suit helping his 4 year old daughter how to ride a bike is a lot less likely to break into a garage than a couple of teens that look like they're from the west side with one of them standing on the back of the bike (big red flag).


Posted: February 10th, 2015 8:14 AM

This guy doesn't look like your typical low life thug to me. That being said, criminals today don't always create a sense of worry in their victims. You just never know when some moron will do something like this!!


Posted: February 10th, 2015 8:08 AM

Could this person be the suspect from a couple yrs ago that was attacking women in the op ave/ euclid alleys?


Posted: February 10th, 2015 8:07 AM

Brandon, what REALLY needs to happen is Austin needs more police with better leadership, courts need to give harsher sentences, and parents need to stop having multiple babies without having the resources nor personal incentives to "raise" them. As much as Giuliani was hated by the bleeding hearts, he slashed crime by a significant % because of his zero tolerance policies.

Brian Slowiak from Westchester  

Posted: February 10th, 2015 7:54 AM

@ Brandon: Unfortunately the community police officers cant work every shift every day every hour. While there are failures within the program, what is missing is a plain clothes tactical response to follow and observe "pickers" who silent shop our community.The omnipresence of uniform officers only works in limitation.OPPD needs access to Chicago PD information, this wont happen because of the fear of OPPD picking up the bad habits of Chic.PD.Lack of leadership and mentoring hurts line Off.


Posted: February 10th, 2015 6:59 AM

When crimes like these happen, our Community Policing program needs to be put under a microscope. Our "community Policing Officers" should know/recognize everyone in their areas. It is there job to do so. Then criminals like this guy would be stopped, questioned, or just watched. The failing program can also be blamed for many garage thefts since the officers don't do anything to stop the pickers. The citizens and the bad guys know these officers are ineffective.


Posted: February 9th, 2015 5:51 PM

So far it seems as if he only committed battery. No gun and no indication of sexual assault. Hell prob walk in 2 yrs

Not OP Res 253  

Posted: February 9th, 2015 5:47 PM

Funny thing. I thought that if the first lady had a gun, chances are she would be shot, and the second lady possibly as well since the guy would have a gun now. These brave ladies have shown all those cowboys out there that you don"t need a gun to defend yourselves


Posted: February 9th, 2015 5:13 PM

Oh, please! He completely caught the first woman by surprise in broad daylight in a very good neighborhood and wrestled her to the ground. There was no time for her to have pulled out a weapon with him right there. Kudos to her bravery for fighting him off -- and also to the second woman with the child who fought him off, too. The guy is clearly sick. Thank God he DIDN'T have a gun.

Eyeroll from River Forest  

Posted: February 9th, 2015 4:52 PM

Way to blame the victim, OP Res 253.

OP Res 253  

Posted: February 9th, 2015 4:02 PM

Well done ladies. If the first woman had (training, permit and) a gun, perhaps the second woman and child would have never been at risk. He'll be out in no time, hope someone "gets a shot".

DreeOP from Oak Park  

Posted: February 9th, 2015 2:31 PM

So glad this ended the way it did. Proof positive we have to be on alert even in daylight hours. Truly frightening. I hope parents of teens share this story with their kids.

Chuck from Oak Park  

Posted: February 9th, 2015 12:55 PM

Nice job ladies, and nice police work also. Hope this scum gets some serious prison time for those attacks.

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