'Brazen' attacks on 2 women worry police
Published: Monday, September 1, 2014 at 10:06 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, September 1, 2014 at 10:06 p.m.
The timing and location of two weekend assaults against women left Gainesville and University of Florida police officers deeply concerned.
“This was very bold — very brazen,” Gainesville Police Lt. Jeff Blundell said on Monday afternoon. “To do this with such a heavy law enforcement presence is way outside the norm.
“That’s what’s concerning.”
Detectives are in search of a man who they described as being between 23 and 25 years old, heavyset and white; 6 feet 5 inches tall, with close-cut brown hair and a tightly cropped beard.
The first attack was reported on Saturday at 9:20 p.m., when Ben Griffin Stadium was packed for the Gators season opener against the Idaho Vandals. Officers from four police agencies were in attendance, and GPD was on heavy patrol in nearby College Park. Still, the suspect attacked a 21-year-old woman on the 1800 block of Northwest Second Avenue.
The man punched the woman in the face, pulled off her clothes and tried to rape her, but her blood-curdling screams caught the attention of a resident.
“There’s plenty going on down there at that time, but this woman’s scream got his attention,” Blundell said. “He definitely knew something was wrong.”
The man grabbed a kitchen knife, turned on a light and confronted the suspect, who dusted off his Gator shirt and ran into a sea of unsuspecting football fans not far away.
“I’m actually proud,” Blundell said of the neighbor. “He didn’t dismiss what he heard as just the noise of the neighborhood and acted on it.”
Five hours later, about 2 a.m. on Sunday, a man fitting the description from the earlier attack emerged and pulled a woman into a patch of bushes near the 400 block of Northwest 13th Street. Passers-by ran over to help, and the man took off, UPD officers had said.
An annual UF crime report showed there were 14 forcible sex offenses reported in 2012 and 11 each reported in 2011 and 2010. However, the report did not separate acquaintance rape from stranger rape. The latter is rare for UF, UPD Capt. Bart Knowles said.
“We don’t see these types of attacks on females quite often,” Knowles said. “But we look at it as one is one too many.”
Dana Lake and Brianna Felegi, both UF freshmen, said they were pleased with the rapid-fire delivery of campus warnings through text messages.
“It was good they (police) let everyone know what was happening,” Felegi said. “I was safe in my dorm.”
Blundell said both victims were shaken from the attacks but he hoped to release a composite sketch of the suspect today.
“We’re looking for anyone who fits that description,” he said. “If you think you even may have saw him, call us and we’ll check it out.”
Most important: “Do not walk alone,” Blundell said, later adding, “Safety is in numbers.”
Anyone with information should call GPD at 955-1818. Also, tipsters can text anonymously by texting GPDFL plus a tip to 274637.