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This article was published 23/8/2018 (478 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Winnipeg police sex crimes investigators are looking for two men who raped an 18-year-old woman Tuesday in a vicious and brazen daylight attack on the walking path along the Assiniboine River not far from The Forks.
The woman had been walking along the river when she was approached by two men, just off the staircase that leads to Main Street east of Bonnycastle Park, police said.
The victim, who has not been identified, told police the men pushed her, grabbed her backpack and then assaulted her.
Both proceeded to "seriously sexually assault" the woman, police said using a term law enforcement agencies use to characterize attacks consistent with rape.
'It's so shocking that it's almost hard to believe; she's so young.' - Danielle Friesen
Const. Tammy Skrabek said officers were surprised the attack was carried out in such a public area during the evening rush hour.
The incident took place at about 5:45 p.m., when commuting traffic is heavy in the area.
"That was our perception, that you would think there would be people around, witnesses around," Skrabek said. "But the reality is that you're at risk any time of day — particularly when you're going under bridges or going into secluded areas," Skrabek said.
On Thursday, about 15 people walked or biked by the area where the attack happened — which is a short distance from The Forks portion of the river walk — in a 20-minute period beginning shortly after 3 p.m.
Danielle Friesen, 21, who lives in the area, was sitting alone on a river walk bench not far from where the attack occurred. She said she often heads to the spot and has never before felt unsafe there, in part because there are always other people around.
She was shocked when told of the attack, saying it was "terrible" even hearing about it, adding that she hoped the victim is recovering as well as can be expected.
"It's so shocking that it's almost hard to believe; she's so young," Friesen said. "I guess I'm lucky that I've never had anything happen to me down here. I've never felt unsafe or anything like that.
"Something like that shouldn't happen to anyone, anywhere, period. But especially down here, where there are usually people around in the early evening. I mean, this is summer, it's the time Winnipeggers come out to places like this and enjoy the outdoors."
Investigators searched for clues for hours after the attack, Skrabek said. They passed along some of the information gathered to the WPS public information office Tuesday night in order to get a press release out Wednesday morning.
The release did not include sketches of the suspects; investigators are giving the woman some breathing room.
"We pursue the investigation as much as we can, even without the victim's involvement at first if necessary," Skrabek said.
"They don't want to re-traumatize her, so they will give her time if she needs it. Then, at some point, they will sit down with her and re-interview her when she's more able. That may include bringing a sketch artist in or potentially having her look at a photo package."
Chelsea Thomson, manager of marketing and communications for the Forks North Portage Corp., which governs the historic site, said there would be interest in installing panic buttons or emergency alert beacons along the river walk, as is the case in Minneapolis along the Midtown Greenway trail.
"There would need to be discussions and co-operation between The Forks, the City of Winnipeg and Parks Canada for something like that to be installed all along the river walk," she said.
"But we'd certainly be open to discussing whatever would be best for the river walk and for the safety of everyone who uses it."
The first suspect is described as a man in his 30s with dark skin, approximately five-foot-10, with short brown hair and a beard. The second man was described as in his 20s, with light skin and dirty-blond hair.
Police are asking anyone with information to contact the sex crimes unit at 204-986-6245.
Ryan Thorpe likes the pace of daily news, the feeling of a broadsheet in his hands and the stress of never-ending deadlines hanging over his head.