CHICAGO (CBS) — Frank Derango heard the screams of a woman being attacked just blocks from the University of Illinois at Chicago campus – and ran outside barefoot to stop it.
As CBS 2’s Jermont Terry reported, Derango said he does not feel like a hero – if only because he didn’t catch the assailant. But he definitely tried.
The attack happened around 11 a.m. Monday in the 1400 block of West Flournoy Street, police said.
Those living on the Near West Side block cannot forget the fear from the young lady as she was attacked.
“She was shaking and, you know, she was scratched up pretty good,” said neighbor and Al’s Beef owner Chris Pacelli.
“I got up and I looked out the window and I said, ‘Oh wow, a girl’s getting mugged,” Derango said.
Derango was inside his home Monday morning when a distinct yell caught his attention.
“And then about 15 seconds later I heard it again, and then I got up and I looked out the window, and that’s when she was trying to run from him,” Derango said.
Without hesitation, Derango jumped into action. He ran outside barefoot to help the woman who was clearly in need of help.
“By the time I got out in front of the house, she was already across the street, and he was about three stories houses down, rumbling through her purse,” Derango said. “He’s seen me, I chased after him. I didn’t have shoes on. If I did, I would have caught him.”
The man took off, leaving the woman’s purse and everything behind. That was when Derango went to console the woman.
“She had nice little scratch on her face,” he said. “Her lip was bleeding.”
The victim told Derango the man approached her asking if she wanted some marijuana.
“And then she got by him, and then she said he put something in her mouth – it might have been his fingers, maybe it was something else – she didn’t really know,” he said. “And then once she got behind, that’s when he reached around and grabbed her.”
Police said the man tried pulling the woman into a gangway between some homes. But thanks to Derango’s quick thinking, that did not happen.
This attack comes just weeks after 19-year-old UIC student Ruth George was found murdered in a campus parking garage at Halsted and Taylor streets.
Cook County prosecutors say Donald Thurman followed George into the UIC garage after becoming enraged when she ignored his cat calls.
At that point, police say Thurman grabbed George, strangled her, and sexually assaulted her in her car. He was caught the next day after he was spotted on several cameras.
In this latest case, neighbors are thankful the woman in the attack escaped.
“It could have been even worse than what actually happened to her – you know, it could have been a lot worse than scratches and bruises on her, so thank God for that,” Derango said. “I’m glad she kind of screamed.”
The young lady who was attacked in the Flournoy Street incident was safe Tuesday night, thanks to Frank Derango and many others who came to her aid. The assailant was last seen running east toward Racine Avenue, and he has not been seen since.