Suspects in rapes, robbery are arrested in Wisconsin

Jessica Steeno

Two St. Paul men suspected of raping two University students Tuesday were arrested early Wednesday morning after a high-speed chase on Interstate 94 near Eau Claire, Wis.
The men were driving a car belonging to one of the rape victims. The rapes occurred Tuesday morning at the victims’ off-campus apartment between Dinkytown and the Como avenue area.
Eau Claire Police arrested Antonio Burton, 20, and Puissance Andersen, 20, after a chase in which the vehicles exceeded 100 miles per hour. The pursuit ended when the stolen car crashed into the side of a semi tractor-trailer. Burton was driving, and both he and Andersen were treated at an Eau Claire area hospital for minor injuries before being taken to the Eau Claire County Jail, Eau Claire police said.
Inside the vehicle police found jewelry, stereo equipment, and a knife that may have been used in the attack, according to a press release from the Eau Claire County’s Sheriff’s office.
Both men are expected to be charged today in Eau Claire County for the high-speed chase, and are being held for questioning by Minneapolis authorities, according to the press release.
While Eau Claire police said that Andersen and Burton will probably appear in court today, other attackers are still not in custody.
The three women said that three to five men broke into their apartment at about 3 a.m. on Tuesday and began to burglarize it. The men raped two of the women before stealing the car and leaving with a television, stereo, jewelry and $40 in cash.
The men entered the apartment through the balcony and forced them into a bedroom, Minneapolis Police Lt. Jim Heimerl said. The attackers then ordered the women to lie on the floor and covered them with a bedspread. The men were in the apartment for about 30 minutes. Since the womens’ heads were covered, they were not certain how many men were involved in the attack.
Heimerl said police are not sure why the third woman was not raped.
“She was very, very fortunate,” he said.
The attackers apparently came in over the apartment’s balcony, said Curt Roller, manager of the apartment building. The apartment is on the second floor of a three-story building, and faces a lighted parking lot.
However, the ground floor of the building is at garden level, putting the second-floor decks only about 6 feet off the ground.
Roller said that he and Craig Janssen, the building’s owner, have always been security-conscious. “We’ve never had a problem here before,” he said.
The owner is currently consulting with a security firm to see how the buildings might be made safer.
“Right now, we’re taking feedback,” Roller said. One measure under consideration is new sliding locks across the balcony doors, he said.
Both Roller and Janssen spoke to residents after the attack. No one could offer an explanation for why this building was targeted and none said they might know any of the suspects, Roller said.
“No one could come up with a why or who,” he said.
All three victims are planning to move out of the building, Roller said.
If the incident was a rarity for the building, it also was for the University community. Susanna Short, assistant director of the University’s Program Against Sexual Violence said assaults by strangers are not very common here.
“Since July 1 we’ve seen 43 clients in our office,” she said. “Most of them come here to discuss incidents of dating violence, date rape, sexual harassment or childhood sexual abuse. The vast majority of our clients are not assaulted by strangers.”
Short said a study by Ms. Magazine stated that 84 percent of all rapes are committed by acquaintances of the victims.
Short said victims of sexual violence can call the program’s 24-hour crisis line at 626-1300. The program, located in 253 Nicholson Hall, also offers walk-in services during regular business hours. Victims can go to the office for crisis intervention and advocacy services.
“We link folks with whatever services will help them get through it,” she said.