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Suspect Paulie Velez, 25, Arrested For Rape Of Woman In Central Park

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Paulie Velez, 25, was arrested early Saturday morning and charged with raping a woman in Central Park.

Police led Velez out of the 5th Precinct in Chinatown where he was questioned overnight, but he remained silent as officers walked him to an unmarked car, CBS2's Christina Fan reported.

According to police, Velez, who is homeless, attacked the woman Thursday morning near Swan Lake.

The victim, 27, was jogging on the footpath when Velez allegedly approached from behind and put her in a chokehold, causing her to briefly lose consciousness before he sexually assaulted her.

She was taken to a local hospital in stable condition.

Grace Claudio, who frequents the park, told CBS2's Natalie Duddridge she's relieved the suspect has been caught but is still cautious.

"I feel a lot more safer, and I'm sure there's a lot more of them out there, but we just got to be aware at all times," she said.

Another woman who visits the park daily with her dog says now she'll be more careful.

"Definitely I have certain areas I avoid, like the tunnels. All the tunnels are just a no-go. Anywhere that looks a bit dark and shady," she said.

The interior of the park does not have surveillance cameras, but police were able to use cameras outside the park to get a clear image of the suspect and trace his steps to a subway station, then to a store and outside of a smoke shop on Eighth Avenue.

Investigators say it was a Crime Stoppers tip that led them to Velez's whereabouts. They arrested him in Lower Manhattan around 1 a.m. Saturday.

According to NYPD data, this was the sixth rape reported in Central Park this year compared to two by this time in 2020. The NYPD says it has increased patrols in Central Park.

The charges against Velez include strangulation, rape, robbery and assault.

CBS2's Christina Fan contributed to this report. Editor's note: This story was first published Nov. 13.

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