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Off-Duty NYPD Cop Accused of Gunpoint Rape in Inwood

By DNAinfo Staff on August 19, 2011 1:02pm  | Updated on August 19, 2011 11:16pm

By Carla Zanoni, Murray Weiss, Ben Fractenberg and Tom Liddy

DNAinfo Staff

INWOOD — An off-duty NYPD cop was arrested Friday for allegedly raping a Bronx school teacher at gunpoint, police said.

The attack unfolded in the rear courtyard of a building on Park Terrace West at approximately 6:45 a.m., according to several witnesses.

Police confirmed that the suspect in the attack on the 25-year-old woman was Officer Michael Pena, 27, a 3-year NYPD veteran.

Authorities said that Pena set on the woman as she was headed to work.

The officer, who authorities said was drunk, allegedly asked the woman for directions to the No. 1 train and told her to show him the way.

When she refused, he put his arm around her, opened his jacket and showed her his gun, authorities said.

Police investigated the scene of an alleged rape on Park Terrace West on Aug. 19, 2011.
Police investigated the scene of an alleged rape on Park Terrace West on Aug. 19, 2011.
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DNAinfo/Bruce Katz

According to NYPD spokesman Paul Browne, Pena told the woman, "You're coming with me." He then allegedly forced her behind a building and sexually assaulted her.

One neighbor, who asked to have his name withheld due to safety concerns, said he was sleeping in his apartment when loud noises woke him up. He looked out his window and saw what appeared to be a man and woman outside having sex.

He confronted the man, saying, “Dude, I live here.” The suspect responded by holding up his hand, saying, "Just give me a minute."

The witness said he then noticed the suspect, who flashed a badge at some point, holding a gun to the woman's head. The witness then called the police.

Moments later officers arrived.

The victim told cops that she was raped, that Pena had a gun, and to "be careful," Browne said.

When they placed Pena in custody, investigators found his NYPD badge and ID.  Authorities said that the victim did not know Pena was a cop until he was placed under arrest.

Cops said they did not have any witnesses who indicated that the officer put a gun to the victim's head or flashed his badge.

Pena was charged with rape and immediately suspended without pay.  A source said that he had an "unremarkable record" on the force.

The FDNY confirmed that someone was taken from the scene to New York-Presbyterian Hospital at the time of the alleged attack.

Police were still investigating the crime scene Friday afternoon and had cordoned off the rear courtyard and driveway.

A number of cops had fanned out across the neighborhood to canvass the area.

Investigators also cordoned off the area surrounding a nearby car on Seaman Avenue and were inspecting the vehicle. It's not clear what role the car played in the case.

The Patrolmen's Benevolent Association declined comment.

Community leaders called on the NYPD to conduct a thorough investigation.

"Sexual crimes are always deplorable acts that violate everything our society believes in," said Sen. Adriano Espaillat in a statement.

Police investigate the crime scene in the rear courtyard of a two-story home on Park Terrace West.
Police investigate the crime scene in the rear courtyard of a two-story home on Park Terrace West.
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DNAinfo/Bruce Katz

"It's especially jarring when the alleged perpetrator is a member of law enforcement."

Espaillat, Assemblyman Guillermo Linares and councilmen Robert Jackson and Ydanis Rodriguez, urged other possible victims or witnesses to come forward.

Overall crime in the 34th Precinct, which covers uppermost Manhattan, is up nearly 23 percent as of Aug. 7, according to NYPD crime statistics. 

Rape was up more than 27 percent, with 14 incidents so far this year, compared to 11 in the same time period last year.

The incident comes just two months after a string of four sexual assaults in Inwood, Washington Heights and the Upper West Side.

And it comes days after the commanding officer of the 34th Precinct, which covers the neighborhood, Deputy Inspector Jose Navarro, was transferred just 15 months into his tenure.  The move outraged many leaders and members of the community.