As details begin to emerge of the decade-long captivity endured by Amanda Berry, Michelle Knight, and Gina DeJesus, many are beginning to ask what kept police from finding these women sooner.
Initial reports from neighbors, including the newly-minted hero who helped Berry escape, was that Ariel Castro showed no signs that he might be hiding, much less abusing, women in his home. Charles Ramsey told reporters he had “not a clue” that anything suspicious was happening at the nearby home.
But some neighbors have begun to tell a different story, claiming that they did see suspicious activities at the Castro home. One neighbor recalls seeing naked women on all fours in the backyard, something police refuted during Wednesday afternoon’s press conference.
Another neighbor, Israel Lugo, says he called the police in 2011 when his sister saw a girl holding a baby beating on a window asking for help, leaving his sister “terrified” and “shaken.” When Lugo came home, he tried to investigate, but was unable to see inside because of the boards and plastic all over the house. He then called the police, who showed up after about a half hour, but didn’t find much at the house.
“A cruiser pulls up to the porch, he pounds on the door really hard, at least a good twenty times,” Lugo explained on Wednesday’s PoliticsNation. “So they got back in their car and they went on their way.”
The Cleveland Police Department has denied Lugo and other neighbor’s claims of phone calls, saying that after an “extensive” look at its records, they found no calls to the Castro house “for women held or women banging on windows.”
But Lugo insisted Wednesday that he’s “absolutely positive” that he called and the police showed up.
“We’re neighbors. We ain’t corrupt and we ain’t crooks,” he said. “Don’t get me wrong, all cops ain’t bad, but you got the good ones and the bad ones.”
Ohio Congresswoman Marcia Fudge, who represents the Cleveland district where the girls were abducted and held, says she’s troubled to hear these conflicting reports.
“Certainly I’m concerned,” she said. “There are many many questions that need to be answered.”
“We’ve found over the years that missing person cases are not always given the kind of attention in this city that we think they should have, especially as it relates to young women who are poor, who live in poor neighborhoods,” she added.
Fudge believes that the neighborhood may have received less attention from the police because of the poverty. She pointed to Michelle Knight’s story. ”Her family had said she was a missing person but the police said, ‘Don’t worry about it, she just walked away from you.’”
“Had she been in another neighborhood it is my belief that they would have handled it much differently,” she said, adding later that because of the poverty of the neighborhood, “it was easy for [police] to ignore what was going on.”
She also highlighted the ongoing Justice Department investigation of the Cleveland Police Department to explore possible civil rights violations. ”The good thing that’s happening right now in Cleveland as a result of so many other mishaps with police is that the Federal Justice Department is in Cleveland as we speak, looking at the practices, looking at what has been going on in this department for a long time,” she said.
Given the high profile nature of these particular kidnappings, Fudge is confident that any prior mishaps will come to light, and those responsible will be held accountable.
“If in fact the neighbors did call the police and they did not respond appropriately, there’s going be a high price to pay.”