A 24-year-old woman helping with the reconstruction of a home on a tranquil street in Gentilly was kidnapped and raped by three men Thursday, New Orleans police said.
The woman told police she was forced into her own car at gunpoint, then driven about seven miles to a desolate section of New Orleans East, where she was sexually assaulted.
The men drove off in her car, leaving her by the side of the road.
The victim was working with a local nonprofit.
Chet Kelly, a plumber who has lived for 23 years in the 4900 block of Demontluzin Street, across the street from where the abduction occurred, said Friday that volunteers had been working for almost two months on a nearby yellow home. From the outside, the home appeared to be almost finished.
The abduction occurred about 3:30 p.m. Thursday, in the block of Demontluzin bounded by Selma Street and Mirabeau Avenue, police said.
Kelly said that aside from a couple of burglaries, the block was generally quiet. This crime, he said, had shaken him.
“It’s just a shame, because these people came to help rebuild around here,” Kelly said. Though the block is near the Gentilly Ridge, it was still inundated with several feet of water after the 2005 levee failures. The neighborhood has been largely reoccupied, but some empty lots and blighted homes remain.
Police have not identified any suspects in the assault, but the first suspect was described as a black man in his mid- to late 20s with a medium complexion, about 5 feet, 10 inches tall.
He allegedly forced the victim — who had exited her red four-door Chevrolet Malibu — back into the passenger seat of the car, brandishing a gun, police said. He then got in the driver’s seat of the vehicle, which had Florida license plates, and drove around the corner to pick up his two accomplices.
The trio then took the woman to the 11000 block of Old Gentilly Road, where they sexually assaulted her and let her out. After that, they fled in the Malibu, police said.
The second suspect was described to officers as a black male with a medium complexion. He is in his mid- to late 20s with a medium build, about 5 feet, 8 inches tall.
Police released sketches of those two suspects but had fewer details about the third man and did not release a drawing of him.
For 14 years, Valencia Tanner has lived on Demontluzin between Mirabeau Avenue and Carnot Street, a block from the abduction. Like Kelly, she described a street that seemed to be on the upswing, with residents trickling back to rebuilt homes.
Standing on her well-manicured lawn, lit by a streetlight, she qualified her optimism with a dose of despair. Even in a quiet corner of Gentilly, it’s hard to feel safe.
“I come outside sparingly. You have to be careful,” Tanner said. “The crime is happening everywhere, not just in one neighborhood.”
Special Victims Section Detective Keisha Ferdinand is in charge of the investigation and can be reached at (504) 658-6385.