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Queens Chronicle

‘Heinous’ attack sparks shelter flap

Ozone Park groups want to know how suspect was allowed to move in

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Posted: Thursday, November 7, 2019 10:30 am

A resident of the homeless shelter on 101st Avenue has been arrested on charges of grabbing a 3-year-old boy in a Woodhaven laundromat last month.

News of the Oct. 19 sexual assault has undermined an already frayed relationship between the nonprofit organization that runs the shelter, the Lantern Group, and a civic group in Ozone Park that sued to prevent it from opening earlier this year and lost.

“How are we classifying these folks to protect our community?” asked Assemblywoman Stacey Pheffer Amato (D-Rockaway Beach), who was briefed on the circumstances of the arrest at a community meeting with the shelter’s managers last week.

Community groups also wanted to know why cops were barred from entering the shelter when they came to search for the suspect.

“This is disturbing on as many levels as you can imagine,” Amato said. “They have no handle on this.”

The 63-year-old suspect, Luis Olivo, is alleged to have sat down next to a 3-year boy inside the No. 1 Laundromat on Jamaica Avenue at 78th Street while the child’s parents were busy loading a washing machine, according the complaint.

Caught on surveillance video, the man was seen with candy on the table where he sat with the child and struck up a conversation.

“The defendant . .. pass[ed] a balloon back and forth with him, repeatedly tug[ged] on the complainant’s sweatshirt and leaned in towards the complainant’s face,” according to a police statement.

Olivo then allegedly grabbed the child and pulled him toward his body, the statement said. The suspect fled after witnesses in the laundromat intervened.

Deputy Inspector Courtney Nilan, commanding officer of the 102nd Precinct, said detectives from the Queens Child Abuse Squad recognized Olivo from earlier encounters with police.

Two days later, he was located living at the shelter, she said.

Olivo is charged with endangering the welfare of a child and was ordered held on $2,000 bail. He was released from Rikers earlier this week, officials said.

“This was heinous, the worst kind of thing you could think of,” said Nilan.

Neighbors have complained that some residents of the shelter are a nuisance — hanging out on stoops of nearby homes, smoking pot and urinating in alleyways. Police responded to 28 calls to the shelter last month, according to 102nd Precinct records.

The complaints usually involve problems among residents or between residents and staff members, said Nilan. But the sexual assault has been, by far, the most serious incident involving shelter residents.

Olivo had a prior arrest for sexual assault in 1987, an NYPD spokeswoman said.

When the facility refused to allow police access to its surveillance cameras last summer in a vandalism case, the Ozone Park Residents Block Association set up its own video system to monitor the shelter at 86th Street and 101st Avenue.

“It’s an outrage,” said Mike Scala, lawyer for the block association and a former candidate for City Council. “They’ve been very disappointing, no question.”

UPDATE

This article was updated Nov. 8 at 10:22 a.m. to reflect that Olivo has been released on bail. 

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