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Police: Man arrested in UF student attack

Victim's friend relieved after man accused of attempting to rape student caught

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – A 24-year-old man has been arrested and charged with trying to rape a University of Florida student outside an off-campus apartment early Tuesday, the Gainesville Police Department said.

The victim, a 21-year-old student, identified John-Phillip Rogers as her attacker, picking Rogers out of a photo lineup, police said.

Gainesville police said the student left a Midtown bar about 1 a.m. Tuesday and walked to her friend's apartment on NW 3rd Place, a few blocks north of University Avenue.

Rogers is accused of approaching the victim in a stairwell of an apartment complex just off campus, following her into the parking lot and trying to rape her.

Police said Rogers forced the woman onto the ground behind a parked car, got on top of her, put his hand over her mouth and threatened to shoot her if she screamed. 

The attacker, who did not show a weapon, was scared away when a car approached, according to police.

Pablo Torres, the friend the victim was going to visit at the apartment complex, said the woman is relieved an arrest has been made but is still not healed from what happened.

"Two days ago I was just livid. I was just full of anger, full of rage, because this guy was just wandering and walking around the streets, and it really upset me deep down, because I just fear for not only my close friends, the individual that was caught up in the situation, but I just also thought, I mean, if he is capable of doing it what's to say he won't do it again," Torres said. "I feel a sense of relief. I feel a little more content about the situation, knowing that someone was caught for this heinous act."

Witnesses reported seeing the attacker running from the scene and back toward the apartments.

"Witness information is critical in any case and especially this case where it gave us -- a little link in the puzzle was that they saw the suspect run back toward that apartment, which was a very big flag for us indicating that we should start really looking at that complex to find the suspect," GPD spokesman Ben Tobias said.

Rogers lives in the apartment complex where the attack occurred, and Tobias said he was contacted during officers' initial canvass of the complex.

"He was a very close match to the original suspect description, and he showed signs of obvious nervousness during the first contact," Tobias said.

The victim also completed a composite sketch of her attacker with a forensic artist and that sketch was a very close match to Rogers, Tobias said. Police then showed the victim the photo lineup, and she picked out Rogers.

Rogers was arrested late Thursday afternoon.

Tobias said Rogers says he was at the scene but maintains he did not commit the crime.

"He places himself there, and we have a good bit of evidence that places him there as well," Tobias said.

Gainesville police said even though an arrest has been made, it's important for people to really be aware of their surroundings at all times and to not get too comfortable.