Deputies investigate third attack in Gainesville

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Four days after police said a would-be rapist tried to sexually assault two women near the University of Florida, News4Jax is learning about a third attack.

The Alachua County Sheriff's Office said it happened just after 2 a.m. Thursday morning on Northeast 15th Street in Gainesville.

Police said a 37-year-old woman was just getting off the bus when she was grabbed from behind and knocked unconscious. When she woke up, she didn't have any pants on and believed she had been sexually assaulted near the Church of God in Christ.

News4Jax spoke to Clara Nell near her Gainesville home, just yards away from where police found the woman after the apparent sexual assault.

"I'm surprised he would by the school being there and the police officers sitting over there and stuff, why would you want to target anywhere up in here?" said Nell.

Ben Tobias from the Gainesville Police Department said she woke up outside the Church of God. News4Jax found a pair of jeans that were inside out and black underwear in the grass nearby, but police have not confirmed that they belonged to the victim.

"She claims after she got off the bus, she was approached from the rear by a black male, we don't know any other description of him and said he came up behind her and knocked her out and she woke up later thinking that she had been sexually battered," he said.

The pastor of the Church of God in Christ said this crime has rattled the nerves of his congregation, but it provides an opportunity to preach about the importance of safety.

"Right now we're just praying for the right lady and just cooperating with law enforcement as much as possible," Pastor Karl Anderson said." "This certainly confirms our practices. We try to tell our young people not to run in and out of the church unsupervised. For female partners here we try to have them double up if they're going from one building to another. And for certain, not to be left on the metroplex here in the evening by themselves." 

News4Jax Crime and Safety Expert Gil Smith said your phone isn't just for keeping up with your friends and family. It can be a tool, armed with apps that can save your life.

"If it's more dangerous it gives your GPS location. So one of your members can come to your assistance or call police as to your location," he said.

"One of the more popular ones is an app called Circle of 6. What it is, is… you develop 6 people, 6 contact people and you program that in your smartphone and if you're in a situation that's very uncomfortable or you feel like you need to get out of you can just tap the app and send a pre-set message like "I need help getting home" or "come get me" or something like that."  

The attack is the third of its kind in Gainesville in less than a week and within miles of the two other similar incidents. Police said a would-be rapist tried to assault two other women over Labor Day weekend, but the suspect description doesn't match. Investigators said the most recent suspect is a black male with short hair cut into to fade.