‘He carried me into the bushes like a baby’: 17-year-old attacked in Overton Park, police searching for suspect

Published: Jun. 1, 2023 at 6:42 PM CDT

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - New details have emerged after a 17-year-old girl was attacked while out for an early afternoon walk in Overton Park on Wednesday.

Action News 5 spoke with the victim who, as you can imagine, is still pretty shaken up.

She says she fought off her attacker with the keys she had in her hands.

She didn’t want to be identified, but she did want to share her story so everyone can take extra precautions.

Overton Park is a popular destination for golfers, walkers and bicyclists, but many people in the park told us Thursday they take certain steps to keep safe.

“I mean, I got 360 vision, not tunnel vision, and I make sure I can see ahead of me, if I see a crowd, I turn around,” said bicyclist J.J. Jenkins, who added that he feels safer riding his bike in the park as opposed to the city streets.

Memphis police responded to the assault call at 12:30 p.m.

The victim told Action News 5 she was walking in the park when she felt like she was being followed.

She says that’s when a man suddenly grabbed her and picked her up like a baby and carried her into the bushes.

According to the police report, she began to scream, and other people nearby saw what was happening and began yelling at him to stop.

Witnesses say the suspect ran off towards the Exxon gas station near Summer Avenue and North Parkway.

“It’s very sad, but it’s also not surprising that that has happened. I think it’s pretty common now, especially female walkers and runners,” said Becky Erickson, who lives near the park.

Luckily the teen wasn’t hurt, but Overton Park officials released this statement:

“We are so grateful that the woman who was attacked was able to get to safety, and we hope she is recovering from this trauma. This extremely upsetting incident is outside the norm for Overton Park, which generally has fewer incidents of crime than the areas that surround the park. Overton Park Conservancy works closely with the Memphis Police Department to share information and track trends. Memphis Police Department is responsible for public safety in Overton Park, as is the case with all public parks in Memphis. We are grateful that police responded quickly and are currently searching for the attacker. We know that the active Overton Park community will remain vigilant, look out for each other, and report any suspicious activity to MPD and Overton Park Conservancy.”

Erickson says in order to stay more aware, she rarely listens to music while in the park, and if she does, she only wears a single ear pod so she can hear what’s happening around her.

Jenkins said, “I think people need to be more careful. You know carry some mace or something when they’re walking.”

Probably the best advice is to try not to walk alone.

The victim says she normally walks in the park with her father, but yesterday she walked alone.

The suspect in Wednesday’s incident is described as being 5 foot 9 inches to 6 feet tall, skinny with short hair in twists.

If you have any information, please call Crimestoppers at (901) 528-CASH.

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