Two officers received the Cop of the Month award at Wednesday’s 109th Precinct Community Council meeting for apprehending a serial groper after his seventh attack on local schoolgirls in Flushing.
The groper was first reported to authorities in a November 2014 incident involving a 13-year-old girl walking to school, according to Deputy Inspector Thomas Conforti, the precinct’s commanding officer.
The girl was in the vicinity of the Long Island Expressway and Main Street when she was approached by a man who ran up to her and asked what time it was. He then quickly groped her and ran away.
The suspect resurfaced again in March 2015, when three additional teenage girls aged 13 to 16 reported being groped in the same vicinity as the first attack over the course of a week.
Security cameras were able to catch a vague image of the suspect at this time, but very little of his face could be seen through the volume of his coat and other winter accessories.
A third wave of girls reported attacks that took place in early December 2015, with three girls victimized during the latest spree.
Wanted posters were installed in the area with surveillance photos of the suspect and identifying details culled from the previous attacks. Plainclothes and uniformed officers were also deployed to scour the area for any sign of the man.
Police Officers Justin Hubbard and Michael Blumhagen were patrolling as part of this investigation on Dec. 3 when they noticed a man who fit the suspect’s description. They became convinced that he was the wanted man after speaking to him for a length of time.
The man was not wearing a jacket despite the cold temperatures, but when asked if he needed to borrow one the officers were told that he did in fact have a coat stashed nearby in his car.
After accompanying the man to his car to get the jacket, the officers were able to immediately recognize the jacket as the one featured in footage of the suspected groper, including distinctive logos on the garment.
Upon his arrest, the suspect was taken to the Special Victims Unit — a specialized unit of detectives dedicated to investigating sexually based offenses — where he confessed to all seven incidents of street groping.
Officers Justin Hubbard and Michael Blumhagen shared the Cop of the Month award with another 109th Precinct officer who helped solve a felony against a neighborhood church.