In what must have been a terrifying act of bravery, a female jogger freed herself from a man attempting to sexually assault her Wednesday morning in Palo Alto. The man, police say, may be responsible for two other similar incidents last month.
"We are concerned about all of these events, but we are particularly concerned about this one, as it appears as though the suspect’s behavior may be escalating," Lt. Zach Perron said.
Police said a 20-year-old was running on Palo Alto Avenue toward Alma Street when a man bear-hugged her from behind, grabbed her chest and attempted to pull her down. She screamed, wriggled free, and fell to the ground. At that point, police said, the would-be attacker ran away.
The woman didn't let the scare deter her. Police said she followed the man heading east on Hawthorne Avenue from Alma Street yelling at him that she’d call police on her cell phone.
When police from Palo Alto and Menlo Park arrived shortly before 7 a.m., they tried finding the suspect, to no avail.
The jogger described the man as a 40-year-old medium-build man with thin black hair, who may be Middle Eastern or Latino, and stands about 5 feet 9 inches tall. She said he wore a light gray long-sleeve shirt and dark gray or black running pants.
Police believe the suspect may be the same person connected to two recent crimes in Palo Alto. On Aug. 20, a man grabbed a woman’s buttocks in the 600 block of Fulton Street about noon, and on Aug. 29, a man grabbed a woman’s breast at the Stanford Shopping Center, also about noon.
Sketches of the suspect from both of those cases had previously been released by Palo Alto police and are available on their Facebook page.
Police are now advising women to jog in well-populated areas and with running buddies when possible. They are also urging against running with headphones because they make you unaware of your surroundings. Always carry a cell phone, too.
Anyone with tips or who wishes to report recent sexual battery can call a 24-hour dispatch center at 650-329-2413.