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From the Post-Dispatch archives

Editors note: On July 28,1983, an 11 year old St. Louis boy was the only witness to help a young girl who was being raped in Forest Park. Here is a reprint of the article that ran in the 1983 edition of the Post-Dispatch.

Sur Williams shrugs at the notion that he may have saved someone's life.

But like so many other people, the 11-year-old St. Louis boy who alerted police to the rape of a girl in a Forest Park fountain finds it hard to understand why other witnesses did so little to stop the attack.

"Nobody did nothing," Sur said in an interview. "Everybody knew what happened. They just didn't do nothing."

Police and witnesses estimate that 20 children, teenagers and adults watched as the 13-year-old Cahokia girl was raped shortly after 5 p.m. Thursday in a fountain below the World's Fair Pavilion on Government Drive, about 300 yards east of the Zoo.

A 10-year-old boy, whom the girl was visiting in St. Louis, trembled nearby while she was attacked. No one stopped the attack, and Sur dashed across the park on his bicycle to summon police.

Sur said that when he had approached to the fountain on his bicycle, about 15 children and teenagers had been wading or climbing on the fountain. Additionally, other children and teen- agers were standing on the edge of the fountain's pool and two women were sitting next to the pool. Sur jumped off his bike to cool his feet in the pool.

The victim and her friend, whom Sur met about a month ago, walked over to the fountain when the Zoo closed, Sur said. They waded in the fountain's pool, then decided to climb about five feet to the top of the fountain, he said. The girl said she was going to show her friend how to dive.

Two older boys followed the girl up to the top of the fountain. They grabbed her from behind and tore off her shorts. She began screaming and fighting them, but they threatened to hurt her, Sur said.

"They were beating her, hitting her," he said. "They made some threats to her," saying they would drown her if she didn't stop fighting.

The boys raped the girl twice and forced her to commit sodomy on one of them, police said.

The girl's 10-year-old friend sat on the edge of the fountain and cried during the attack, Sur said. "He said those guys might beat him up," Sur said.

About six other teen-agers and children stood on the rim of the elevated fountain just to watch, Sur said. "They just sat there getting their thrills off watching her get raped," he said. Other children watched from below, and possibly several adults watched from the road .

Finally, one older boy climbed up to the top of the fountain to stop the attack but was was shoved back into the pool, Sur said. One of the women at the edge of the pool yelled at the attackers but was ignored. She didn't attempt to stop them or call police, Sur said.

Sur is uncertain how long the assault lasted. But when no one stopped the attack, he jumped on his bike and rode in the direction of the boat dock a short distance away. He didn't see anyone near the dock and stopped to ask a woman directions to the closest phone.

She sent him to the Muny Opera, where he found police officers Mark O'Brien and Mike Hartig. They followed him back to the fountain.

When they arrived at the fountain, the girl was still screaming, police said. Her friend was with her, and the attackers were preparing to leave. Police arrested the two before they escaped.

Police said that by the time they arrived, a small crowd had gathered at the fountain and across the street. But only three of the onlookers talked with police -- Sur, the victim's friend and an 18-year-old man who also had been in the fountain. The woman who yelled at the attackers and the other woman who witnessed the incident walked away from the fountain when Sur Creturned with police.

The 18-year-old told police he was a friend of the victim's two attackers. He was the one who attempted to stop the rape, he said, while about 20 other people looked on.

Lynn Stewart, 17, of the 5500 block of Wells Avenue, was charged Friday in warrants with two counts of rape and one count of sodomy. He was being held in lieu of $50,000 bond. He has no prior record of convictions. The second suspect, a 14-year-old, was booked under the juvenile code.

Sur Williams shows off his rewards

Sur Williams, front, shows off the 12-speed bike he was given after he reported a rape in progress in Forest Park on July 28, 1983. The 11-year-old boy made national news for being the only one to try and intervene as the crime occurred. 

Detective Harry Keeler of the department's sex crimes section was angry that the teens, adults or older children had made no effort to alert authorities or to stop the attack.

"Some of them were old enough to know what reponsibility is," Keeler said. "There were enough people there to do something -- but nobody did. "

For Sur, it was a lesson one shouldn't have to learn. But he seemed proud of his own role -- and a little enamored with his instant celebrity. And he knows he did what he could.

"That's the first time something ever happened to me like that," he said. "They could've killed her."

St. Louis Police want to draw attention to Sur's heroic action by recommending that he given the St. Louis Grand Jury Association Good Citizenship Award.

"We're going to do more than that," said Lt. Col. William E. Brown, assistant police chief. Brown said Saturday he also wa s planning to ask the police board to approve a fund-raising campaign aimed at raising about a $500 as a reward for Sur.

"I may take up contributions within our department or ask other civic groups if they would like to contribute to the heroic actions this boy has performed."

Brown also said he will present Sur with a commendation at a public ceremony at police headquarters.

"What we want to instill in people is that we need help from other people, 'Brown said. 'There's no way we can police this city without citizen cooperation."