20-year-old Jose Roberto Hernandez-Penal. Credit: Montgomery County Police

After an hourlong manhunt in Silver Spring Tuesday afternoon, police have arrested and charged Jose Roberto Hernandez-Penal, 20, with first-degree rape, kidnapping and armed robbery. Detectives say they believe Hernandez-Penal of Hyattsville may have sexually assaulted other victims and are sharing photographs of him in hopes that others will come forward.

Police responded to Northwest Branch Trail in Silver Spring on Tuesday afternoon for report of a sexual assault and armed robbery. Their preliminary investigation found that around 2:40 p.m., a man approached two females on the trail, brandished a machete, stole their property and sexually assaulted one of them before fleeing the scene on foot.

A manhunt ensued, with Montgomery County officers enlisting the help of a helicopter from state police, a canine unit from the sheriff’s office and additional support from park police in their efforts to apprehend the suspect. While the suspect was fleeing the scene, police say he assaulted an adult male victim in the 1100 block of Devere Drive before he was captured by police and taken into custody.

Hernandez-Penal was slated to go to trial in Montgomery County District Court on Feb. 3 on misdemeanor charges of malicious destruction of property and possession of burglar’s tools. He failed to appear in court for his case, triggering the issuance of a bench warrant for his arrest and the forfeiture of his $6,000 bond. The trial in that case has been rescheduled for July 3 in Silver Spring.

During an interview with detectives after his arrest Tuesday, Hernandez-Penal “made statements of involvement” regarding the incident on the trail, according to police. He was then transported to the county’s Central Processing Unit and charged with first-degree rape and assault, second-degree assault, armed robbery, kidnapping and weapons charges.

Police urge anyone who believes they may have been a victim of sexual assault by Hernandez-Penal to contact detectives at (240) 773-5050. Callers can remain anonymous, police say.