Sexual assault reported inside family restroom at Westfield Siesta Key mall

Victim and alleged assailant know each other, Police Department reports

Jamal Abrams. Image courtesy Sarasota Police Department

Sarasota Police Department officers have arrested a 22-year-old Sarasota man following a reported sexual battery inside the Westfield Siesta Key mall, the department announced on Sept. 19.

The suspect, Jamal Abrams of 1833 Livingstone St., is being held at the Sarasota County Jail, a news release says.

Information posted by the Corrections Division of the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office says Abrams was charged with sexual assault by a person 18 years of age or older with no physical violence. No bond was set in that case.

The Sarasota Police Department wants to assure the public “that this was not a random attack and that the victim and Abrams know one another,” the news release stresses.

The alleged sexual assault occurred about 10 a.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 19, inside the family restroom of the mall, which is located at 3501 S. Tamiami Trail in Sarasota, a Police Department news release adds. Abrams formally was charged that afternoon at the Police Department headquarters on Adams Lane in Sarasota, the formal report says.

The victim told officers she was sitting on the floor in the hallway across from the family restroom, charging her iPad, when Abrams arrived, the report says. Abrams sat down next to the victim, grabbed her by the neck and forced her to kiss him, the report continues. The victim pushed Abrams away and told him to stop, the report adds.

Abrams then grabbed the victim’s backpack and iPad, she told officers, and took them into the family restroom. Although Abrams tried to lure the victim into the restroom to retrieve her items, the report says, the victim told officers she stood by the door but did not enter the restroom.

After the victim sat back down on the floor of the hallway, the report continues, Abrams came out of the restroom and allegedly grabbed her wrist “and forcibly dragged her into the family bathroom against her will,” the report says. Then he allegedly began sexually assaulting her after he pushed her against the wall, the report adds. She made several attempts to push Abrams away as she told him to stop, the victim told officers. Finally, the report continues, she succeeded in pushing him back and was able to leave the restroom. She then located a security guard and reported the attack, the Police Department report says.
When officers arrived, the report continues, the victim identified Abrams, who was taken into custody.

Detectives observed red marks on the left side of the victim’s neck, consistent with her statement that he had grabbed her, the report notes.

The victim “appeared scared,” the report adds.

Officers were able to view video footage from a mall security camera, the report says, and it confirmed the victim’s statement.

Abrams was transported to the Sarasota County Jail “without incident,” the release adds.

Abrams also was charged with two counts of Possession of a Controlled Substance without Prescription. Bond was set at $1,500 on each of those counts. Additionally, he was charged with possessing not more than 20 grams of marijuana, as well as possession and/or use of narcotics equipment. Bond was set at $500 on each of those counts.

His arrangment on all counts is scheduled for Oct. 26, the jail records show.

An aerial map shows the location of the Westfield Siesta Key mall. Image from Google Maps

Capt. Johnathan Todd, commander of the Sarasota Police Department Criminal Investigations Division, praised the victim in the news release for reporting the incident right away. “I’m happy the victim was able to get away and notify security,” he said in the release. “The quicker we know about a case, the quicker we can begin our investigation and solve it.”

“The Sarasota Police Department takes every instance of sexual violence seriously,” the release points out. Officers encourage anyone to call the department “and report this type of activity without hesitation,” the release says.