Monday, May 21, 2018
Public safety

St. Petersburg police seek man who attacked girl, 13, on her way home from school

ST. PETERSBURG — Catcalls from the dark, abandoned houses are not unusual to 13-year-old Jazmine Burney.

It happens almost every day, she said: Voices from the dark beckoning her closer, strange men leering as she walks home.

It happened again Tuesday, as Jazmine stepped off a bus about 4:45 p.m. and passed by two men outside a vacant home at 601 31st St. S. She said one was sitting on the stoop. The other stood and called out to her.

This time it became far more serious. The man attacked her, she said, and only the intervention of a good Samaritan prevented it from becoming much worse. Police are now seeking both men who were at the house and would like to talk to the good Samaritan as well.

"I was going to just walk by, ignore him, like usual," Jazmine said. "But then he grabbed me."

The man ran up behind her, pulled her to the ground, and began dragging her to the vacant home by her auburn hair.

Jazmine, who was wearing shorts, remembers pain in her knees as gravel scraped skin. Her schoolbooks flew out of her arms. She screamed and fought back.

The man punched her in the face and gripped her forearm harder, trying to restrain the struggling teen.

The other man did not move from his seat by the house.

"I thought I was going to die," she said.

It wasn't until a good Samaritan leaped off a nearby PSTA bus and shoved the girl's attacker that Jazmine was able to break free and run home.

Jazmine's aunt, Margaret Ferguson, 48, remembers tears streaming down her niece's face as she barreled through the front door. She was shouting that someone had tried to rape her.

Ferguson didn't wait around to hear more.

She walked to the bus stop to try to find the man responsible, but he was already gone. So was the good Samaritan.

She returned home and called police.

Detectives have not been able to find any of the men. They hope the public can help, said St. Petersburg police spokesman Mike Puetz.

Jazmine, a student at Lealman Intermediate School, suffered bruising on her face and forearm and scrapes on her knees in the attack. She has been home from school, icing her wounds for the last several days.

She's thought about what she might say when she goes back to eighth grade today, when the questions come from her peers instead of police or reporters.

"I think most girls might give up and not fight, because they're scared," she said. "I knew I had to get him off of me so I could run."

Jazmine said she was always told to fight if she was in danger, so she kicked and punched the man with all her strength.

"He must be hurting today," she said, a half smile creeping onto her bruised face. "I kind of hope he is."

From now on, Ferguson said, she's not letting the teen walk anywhere by herself.

"Usually her dad drives her places, but the bus stop is so close," she said, noting the family moved to the area just five months ago. "I don't see how any kind of sick person could attack a 13-year-old girl like that."

The first assailant is described as a black man with a light complexion, muscular build and full beard. He had black and gray earrings in both ears, tattoos on the inside of both forearms and was wearing a black T-shirt with black cargo style shorts, black socks and Nike sandals.

The second is an unshaven black man with a dark complexion, very thin build, and small braids in his hair. He was wearing a black T-shirt with the Nike logo "Just Do It" on the front and black gym shorts with blue stripes down the sides.

Both men were about 5-foot-8 and believed to be in their early 20s. Puetz said the second man may turn out to be a witness in the case.

Police are asking anyone with information to call (727) 893-7780, text (727) 420-8911 or leave an anonymous tip at (727) 892-5000.

Marissa Lang can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8804. Kameel Stanley can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8643.

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