To Catch a Rapist

Sometimes it takes someone willing to make a hard tackle

Corey Williams comes home from work after midnight, tired usually, and sometimes thinking about the joy he used to feel "knocking people over." As a powerful defensive end, he certainly didn't mind the violence of football, but what he craved even more was the attention that violence brought — the "oooh!" of the crowd when he made a brutal stop.

He equated that sound with winning, and after he left football and Lamar High School, the sound disappeared from his life. Williams's plan afterward was to live as he had played, to understand that "you've got to work hard if you want to win." He had intended to go to college and do the hard work with his brain, but all he can say now is that he had "the champagne bottle tilted up after high school and started to see time slip by." Four years have passed since high school, and Williams has this job now washing cranes from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., and also this other job, from 4 p.m. to midnight, cutting sheet metal on the assembly line at an "engineered filtration products" plant.

Then he comes home, usually in the old Buick he shares with his mother, to the apartment he shares with her, in an area along far west Bissonnet where liquor stores are not hard to find, nor payday loan outfits, nor a bail bondsman. Williams knows a lot of people around here who never went to college and some whom he believes to be "criminals." As for himself, he has "always tried to live as honest as possible," he says — "no felony convictions at least." "I'm a winner," says Williams, and this was still his point of view late one evening last March when, stepping out of the car, all 220 solid pounds of him, he heard someone in the parking lot say, "man, there's a guy back in that alley over there."

Corey Williams went after the guy back in the alley.
Daniel Kramer
Corey Williams went after the guy back in the alley.

Williams, in his usual late-night foul mood, thought to himself, "Don't no one want to come home to that."

The usual schemes in beat number 19G40 involve burglary, robbery, aggravated assault, but there had been a few more rapes than usual in the previous six months, and police believed one man to be responsible for five of them. Typically, the man would scale a balcony or enter through a bedroom window, waking his victim by pouncing on top of her, punching her in the face. Three of the rapes had taken place in Corey Williams's apartment complex, Summerstone, including perhaps the most terrifying, in which a woman was dragged behind a building with a knife to her throat.

The man involved was clearly "not a real nice fellow," as Lieutenant Mike Waterwall said, and police had increased patrols in the area and had distributed composite sketches of him. "Beware" flyers had been posted on every Summerstone door; the residents had held a meeting in the clubhouse. "I mean, everyone was looking for this guy," Waterwall said, but he kept coming back. "He couldn't control himself, obviously."

Among the many who lived in fear was Corey Williams's own mother, Alvanna. Corey Williams himself admits he "just kind of brushed it off" and even teased his mother for being afraid. As a large male, he thought he knew at least two things in this world. One was, "the dude's not going to rape me — that's for damn sure," and the other was, no one was ever going to lay hands on his mother.

These thoughts were far from his mind, however, that night in the parking lot. Williams simply knew that "it's not normal for a motherfucker to be standing in an alley at one in the morning," and he responded to the situation by unbuttoning his shirt. The man who alerted him to the situation would not return phone calls for this account, but he was a visitor to the complex named Derrick Johnson whose children were being babysat there. Williams says he reached into the trunk of his car and pulled out a big, wooden stick. One of Williams's co-workers was there, too — Jonathan Robinson, who had come home with Williams to drink a few beers. His phone number has since been disconnected, but he had no stake in this matter, and Williams said Robinson hung back as the three of them made their way into that dark alley.

At the back of the alley, just at the corner of the building where the balconies rise up, they met an unusually tall figure, cloaked entirely in black. When Johnson posed the obvious question — "what the fuck are you doing here?" — the figure answered by silently producing a cell phone, as though to say, just making a call. Johnson, at this point, reached out to grab the dark presence by the collar of his shirt, just as Williams snatched him up on the other side — as though to say, Williams explains now, "prepare to get fucked-up." The sinister figure dissolved then into a very frightened human being. "I ain't doing nothing!" he blurted. "I ain't doing nothing!"

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