GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Police in Gainesville plan to hold a news conference Monday afternoon with an update on the recent attacks at the University of Florida. Police are still searching the campus for a battery suspect after Sunday's latest attack.
Police said Sunday's attack happened around 8:45 p.m. at McCarty Hall, between building B and C.
"A UF student was walking from library west heading south to the Archer Road area when she was grabbed from behind at the McCarty Hall vending area. That's between McCarty B and C. The student was grabbed from behind and tackled. In that process, she did turn around with the suspect, began yelling and screaming and actually kicked him off of her," said Major Brad Barber with the UF Police Department.
Police said once the victim was able to get away, the attacker fled on foot down Museum Road towards Reitz Union. The victim ran in the other direction and called 911.
"The officers actually were in contact with the victim a little bit under three minutes from the time that she called. And just a short time after that, along with officers from the Gainesville Police Department and our department, University of Florida Police Department, we had over 60 officers in the area that immediately began the search for this suspect," said Barber.
The news comes after four attacks near the UF campus in the previous week, the fourth occurring just after 3 a.m. Friday in the Library West area. That day, surveillance photos and video of a possible suspect in the first two incidents were released.
Police haven't said if the latest attack on Sunday is related to the previous four, but aren't ruling it out.
"That's a distinct possibility. In one of the circumstances we're looking into, the descriptions of the suspect are very, very similar. The individual tonight was described as a white male, at least over six feet tall, wearing an orange t-shirt, black shorts, and a black baseball cap. That's about all the description that we have on him. But again, this is kind of similar to what has been described as the suspect in the other three incidents," said Barber.
Police said the suspect is a white man about 6'1", 185 pounds, wearing a black hat and had no facial hair.
The attacker in the first two incidents was described as a white man in his 20s, at least 6'3", 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. (Surveillance photo of possible suspect released by Gainesville police)
Police are still actively investigating the other incidents and have increased patrols at the University.
"We have established emergency operations center for the University of Florida, given the concern that has been expressed obviously from parents and our institution. We have increased and coordinated different levels of increased patrols throughout campus, adjacent areas,and certainly our sorority row area," said Barber.
Police are asking for the public's help in identifying any suspicious persons.
"First and foremost, we want to remind individual that if they see something or someone that is suspicious, report it to law enforcement immediately. Let us take that opportunity to investigate what may be involved, who that person may be, what they may be doing out there. Don't hesitate to do that. Certainly, if you are a victim, such as the individuals here recently, notify us immediately. Again, give us that opportunity to hopefully locate that suspect and apprehend them," said Barber.
The University of Florida offers several programs to help students with self-defense techniques and nighttime escorts throughout campus.
"Certainly we encourage any individual who has an interest in self defense techniques to look at the opportunities we provide through participation in our RAD program. That's the Rape Aggression Defense Course. Great opportunity to learn some defensive skills, that in time, such as the one this evening... certainly proved beneficial to this victim," said Barber. "In terms of SNAP--our student nighttime auxiliary patrol--it's a program that has been around for many, many years. It's a point-to-point escort service. We encourage individuals, if you're alone at night traveling campus, throughout campus, contact SNAP and coordinate for that escort."
You can contact SNAP to coordinate an escort by calling 352-392-SNAP (7627) or go to www.police.ufl.edu.
UPD is expected to hold a news conference at 2 p.m. with an update on the investigation. News4JAX will have a crew there and bring you the new conference live online, with updates to the article and full reports on newscasts throughout the day.