Action News Jax Investigates: Police alert time to reported sexual assault of Bartram Park mother

JSO is responding to our questions about how long it took them to alert the public that a dangerous rapist was on the run

Action News Jax is looking into how long it took the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office to notify the public about a reported sexual assault against a mother in Bartram Park Friday.

The police report said the victim reported the incident occurred shortly before 6 p.m. Friday and the suspect’s description was released just before midnight during a press briefing to the media.

Action News Jax Crime and Safety expert Ken Jefferson said the suspect’s description should have been released sooner.

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“That delays the whole process and that gives that suspect an added edge,” Jefferson said. “To wait five hours or so to put that specific description out doesn’t make any sense to me at all. It’s always a public safety threat if you withhold information in an untimely manner from the public.”

The victim provided a detailed description of the suspect, saying he was a black male, early 20s, approximately 5'8" to 5'10" in height, thin build, wearing gray/tan jeans, a black/blue striped shirt, brown boots and fled in an older model 4-door silver Honda with tinted windows that were peeling.

Her description led to a sketch released by JSO.

“I memorized it,” parent Tecla Wisecarver said.

Wisecarver lives close to where the assault reportedly occurred and said she believed the public should have been notified sooner.

“If we were aware the first time around and not five hours later that we might even, people would be on the lookout for the person,” Wisecarver said.

In August, we told you how JSO took several hours before releasing information to the public about the reported sexual assault of an 8-year-old girl in Arlington.

JSO said that investigation is still ongoing.

JSO said the media alerts were not delayed and in a statement said: “In many police jurisdictions there is not an EARS – police phone into newsrooms or police break emergent announcements via their social media, which we also do given the vast number of people following us. These notifications, whether by phone or text or social media, don’t and won’t happen on a fixed schedule. They happen when investigators are on scene and working through the initial stages of an investigation, and it is determined that the incident is bona fide and it is also determined that a public warning needs to occur, or we are asking for the public’s assistance and to be on the lookout… It happens when we know what we have and it’s been bona fide and determined that there is a public threat or a public need for assistance.”

JSO said the investigation was well underway once the alert was sent out to the media, which means investigators were already actively gathering evidence in the case.

The agency said it will not be reviewing its policy because the case was handled properly.

Jefferson said he believes the policy should be reassessed.

“I think that they need to look at the policy,” Jefferson said. “If you’re going to wait five hours just to put out a suspect description, you’ve lost five hours.”

Wisecarver said she hopes changes are made.

“More people would be aware and on the lookout at that point,” Wisecarver said.