Police say gunman in deadly

A gunman who killed five women at a suburban Chicago clothing store sexually assaulted one of his victims, police said on Wednesday as the attack’s lone survivor commented publicly for the first time.

The weekend killings occurred during an apparent botched robbery at a strip mall in Tinley Park, southwest of the city, and authorities are still hunting for a suspect they say wore a knit cap pulled over braided, beaded hair during the rampage.

“One of the victims was the target of sexual advances by the offender, in that she was fondled,” Tinley Park police said in a statement. There was no additional sexual contact, the statement said. The gunman fondled only one of the women during the attack, Commander Rick Bruno told The Associated Press Wednesday.

He declined to identify her. The one survivor also issued a statement through police, calling the rampage at the Lane Bryant plus-size clothing store “an unspeakable tragedy” and a “horrific crime that ripped our worlds apart.” The women who died, who ranged in age from 22 to 42, were “five of the bravest women I have ever met. … My deepest sympathies and condolences go out to their families and friends,” she said.

“Please know that during the unfathomable events of that day, their thoughts were focused on you and coming home. My heart aches that they were unable to do so …” The woman, who authorities have not named, was in protective custody, Tinley Park Mayor Edward Zabrocki has said. Police have said the department has taken steps to ensure her safety.

It has been reported widely that the parents of the survivor have said their daughter escaped serious injury when the bullet meant for her head struck her neck. Zabrocki said he learned from police that the woman apparently moved her head just as the gunman was pulling the trigger, causing the bullet to graze her neck. Police planned to release a sketch of the suspect based on the survivor’s account, Bruno said. “I’m confident that one will be forthcoming,” he said.

“But it’s a very careful process and we have to proceed with caution. Obviously, she’s been through a very traumatic experience.” Investigators Wednesday continued contacting hair salons and barber shops in the hopes of finding one that may have braided the gunman’s hair, Bruno said. The police description of the man includes intricate detail, down to him having a braid of hair hanging across his cheek decorated with light green beads. (AP)

______ Copyright 2008 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.  

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