Police that have been swarming a wide swath south of Ninth Street to catch the so-called South Slope Sex Fiend just missed capturing a suspect on Wednesday morning — a botched arrest that came amid frayed nerves that may have contributed to a separate incident involving the beating of an innocent man.
Park Slope residents say cops frantically searched 13th Street at 1 am on Sept. 28, looking into backyards with flashlights after two undercover officers ordered a man to the ground, but he fled toward Eighth Avenue.
Police later said that the chase had nothing to do with the fiend who is wanted in at least 11 attacks — but that didn’t calm locals.
“It just seemed like a larger action than a routine stop-and-frisk,” said 13th Street resident Steve Hubbell. “Police are doubly vigilant right now.”
In all 11 attacks, victims have described the fiend as a short Hispanic man — and some suspect that the description led to Wednesday morning’s brutal beating of a man on Sixth Avenue near 18th Street. In that 2 am incident, a witness said that two white men approached the Hispanic victim, saying, “Why are you here? What are you doing? Go back home!” before mercilessly pummeling him.
The witness called 911, and cops took the man away but didn’t ask her for information. When she went to police hours later, they brushed her off.
“I tried to mention that I was hoping this wasn’t related to all the stepping up to find the so-called ‘Hispanic rapist,’ ” said the neighbor, who asked not to be identified. “They were laughing at me.”
Police at the 72nd Precinct said that the victim was intoxicated and that he was taken him to the hospital. The case is closed, an officer said, because there were no bona fide witnesses — making this one of several incidents where police and citizen accounts vastly differ.
Whatever the truth, the stepped-up patrols and the three different “Wanted” posters in every window have put the entire neighborhood so on edge that every brush is a potential attack and everyone is suspect.
For instance, on Sept. 24, a drunk man bumped into a woman from behind on E. Fourth Street and Greenwood Avenue.
“What are you doing?” she screamed, and the man walked away.
Her jitters came on the heels of the 11th confirmed attack on Sept. 21 by the attempted rapist — or rapists — who’ve terrorized the area since March.
In the latest harrowing attack, a creep groped a woman near Fourth and Prospect avenues. The 29-year-old victim told cops that she had just exited the Prospect Avenue R train station at 9:05 pm when the monster snuck up from behind, grabbed her breasts and fled after she screamed.
Police describe the suspect as a thin 5-foot-7 man, 19- to 24-years-old and weighing about 150 pounds. He was last seen wearing a black T-shirt, baggy dark jeans and a black baseball cap.
“The victim’s description fits with the pattern of attempted assaults,” said a police source. “And it’s typical with the other incidents. She was grabbed from behind by surprise.”
Fear of attack has prompted residents and local pols to hold rallies in the streets, organize self-defense classes and circulate “Wanted” posters alongside cops, who boosted their patrols in late August.
Police originally sought only one South Slope sicko following the first incident on March 20. The suspect — described as 5-foot-7 and 165 pounds — attacked a 24-year-old woman at 11:30 pm on 16th Street near Fourth Avenue.
Following a series of attempted rapes over the summer, detectives released a second sketch of the same suspect.
Cops recently began circulating a third police sketch for a Sept. 4 incident, when a sicko attacked a woman near 49th Street in Sunset Park at 3:40 am. She fought him off.
It was only after two attacks in Park Slope on Sept. 8 and Sept. 9 that cops announced there was more than one fiend on the loose.
Many residents aren’t convinced that cops are doing enough.
“This is like theater,” said South Slope resident Alexandra Benavente. “Police come here and tell us they’ve increased the police presence, but we never see them around at night.”
Anyone with information on the South Slope rapists is asked to call Brooklyn Special Victims Squad at (718) 230-4415, not Crime Stoppers.