UF police investigate 4th attack, release photo of possible suspect
GAINESVILLE, Fla – As the Gainesville Police Department and University of Florida Police Department investigate a fourth attack on a woman in the last week, surveillance photos and video of a possible suspect in the first two incidents have been released.
UF police said the latest attack was just after 3 a.m. Friday in the Library West area. Authorities said the victim and an acquaintance left midtown walking to a home just off campus when the victim was grabbed by a man. The victim and the person she was with punched the man in the face and ran.
The attacker was described as a white man in his 20s, at least 6-feet, 3-inches tall, between 200 and 250 pounds, with brown hair, brown beard, wearing a blue shirt and orange cargo shorts -- a description similar to that of a man who tried to sexually assault two women near campus over the Labor Day weekend.
On Friday, Gainesville police released two photos and video of a man taken Aug. 30 that they consider a suspect in the first two attempted sexual assaults. At the time, he was wearing orange shorts.
Friday morning's attack came just over 24 hours after police said a 37-year-old woman was grabbed and knocked unconscious after getting off a bus on Northeast 15th Street, near the Church of God in Christ. When she woke up, she didn't have any pants on and believed she had been sexually assaulted.
The description of the suspect from Thursday's attack was far different than the others -- a black man with short hair cut into a fade. Police said Friday morning that this attack was in no way connected to last Saturday's assaults or the one early Friday morning.
UF has been sending alerts to students, and police have picked up patrols.
"Especially around here at night, there are a lot more cops walking around and police cars driving around," student Josh Mizels said.
"My friend was telling me about it. She was like, 'I don't want to go to my car at night,'" student Christine Frego said. "I don't. No one really wants to be by themselves. They said that he is like average looking, so he blends in pretty well with everybody else."
Officer Ben Tobias of the Gainesville Police Department said the attacker is wearing Gator clothing and blending in with the crowd.
"It's actually like looking for a needle in a stack of needles," Tobias said. "He seems spontaneous. He seems brazen, and you better believe he's got our attention."
Police said until the man is caught, patrol units will be out in force both in marked cars and under cover.
Some students said they're changing their routine as a result of the attacks.
Kristen Stilley said her sorority sisters are banding together to keep each other safe.
"I know that some of the girls are giving out rides tonight. They're staying in so that nobody has to walk," Stilley said. "Especially because they are happening in such a public area. It is not even safe to walk anymore. It's very scary."
UF police are encouraging young women to utilize safety tools available to them on campus, including the Student Nighttime Auxiliary Patrol (SNAP), which is a free nightly transportation service students can call. For more on the SNAP program, go to www.police.ufl.edu.
There's also the Rape Aggression Defense Program (RAD), which is a self-defense program designed especially for women. For more on the RAD courses and schedules, go to www.police.ufl.edu.
"It's a fantastic class. I suggest it to anyone," said Denise Bain-Kafka, who took the class with her daughter. "At the end of the class, they give you a scenario, several scenarios, where you actually get to put everything you've learned into practice. Actually, the scenarios are kind of scary."
Universities in Jacksonville are also taking precautions and continue to educate students on campus safety in light of the UF attacks.
Tobias said it's important with the busy weekend in Gainesville that everyone keep an eye out.
"The thing is, we could have a thousand street cops on one corner, and a problem could happen on another street corner," Tobias said. "So everyone has to stay vigilant, stay alert, and to call us with the first sign of suspicious activity."
Anyone with any information about any of the attacks is asked to call the University Police Department at 352-392-1111.
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