An alleged predator busted earlier this year in Florida for a kidnapping and sexual assault was arrested Saturday in connection to the shocking daytime rape of a woman in Central Park, police and sources told The Post
Police nabbed Paulie Velez, 25, at 12:50 a.m., after he ran, jumped fences and tried to hide out under a deck when they came knocking at his mother’s home in Howard Beach, Queens, according to cops and sources.
A call placed to the NYPD’s Crime Stoppers hotline led to the arrest, cops said.
“He puts himself at the crime. Says ‘I was there in the park,’” a law enforcement source said.
Velez is currently homeless, but used to live in Florida and has a prior arrest in Miami-Dade County for sexual assault from February 2021 in which he was charged with kidnapping, battery and sexual assault, NYPD sources said.
“He gets locked up for that, agrees to enter a plea — there was a court date and he doesn’t show up,” one source said of the Florida arrest.
The 25-year-old Velez also has a prior New York arrest — for which a bench warrant was issued — in connection with a Dec. 5, 2019 incident in which he entered an Eighth Avenue 7-Eleven in Midtown and took two packs of cigarettes worth $33. Store employees held the thief until cops arrived and Velez was charged with petit larceny, the sources said.
Velez, clad in a knit hat, white T-shirt, jeans and a black surgical mask, said nothing as cops led him out of the Fifth Precinct station house to a waiting unmarked car early Saturday. He is expected to be arraigned at Manhattan Criminal Court.
Velez allegedly approached the 27-year-old victim from behind as she ran on a footpath near the pond in the park’s southeastern corner at around 7:20 a.m. Thursday, placing her in a chokehold until she lost consciousness and raping her, police said.
Velez was seen wearing black pants and shirts, with a black baseball cap and mask to match, as he entered a train station through an open emergency exit door — beating the fare, according to security footage released by the NYPD.
The victim reached out to a passerby for help, and was taken to a hospital, NYPD Inspector Michael King said at a Thursday briefing, adding there would be increased patrols in the Manhattan park after the attack.
Just 25 minutes later, a man who was released from state prison earlier this week allegedly tried to rape a 54-year-old jogger on Randall’s Island, before he was scared off by a bystander, sources said.
Registered sex offender Howard Shaw, 38, was charged in that attack.