JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A man believed to have attacked a jogger at Kathryn Abbey Hanna Park last week and to have exposed himself to another woman at the park's campground the following day might have been spotted in the area again this week, police said.
The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office released a sketch Thursday of the man from the Hanna Park incidents, and a woman called Jacksonville Beach police that night after seeing a news report that included the sketch.
She said the man in the sketch looked very similar to a man who was loitering Wednesday afternoon at Sunshine Park on South Beach Parkway.
Both Hanna Park incidents were reported last week at the public beach and city park in the Mayport area. Park officials told News4Jax that officers were actively searching for the man in the woods Thursday night.
Just before 3 p.m. Jan. 11, a woman was running in the park when she was approached by a man who started talking to her and then began to follow her, police said.
As she stopped to let him go by, he forced her to the ground and began punching her, investigators said. The man then snatched a cellphone from her arm holder and ran off, police said.
The attacker was described as being a 25- to 30-year-old Hispanic male with short buzz cut-type hair, 5 feet, 7-10 inches tall and weighing 170-200 pounds, according to JSO. He was reportedly wearing a camouflage jacket, gray shirt, blue jeans and sunglasses with blue lenses.
About 2 p.m. the next day, police said, a woman was stopped on a bench at the Hanna Park Campground on Wonderwood Drive when she noticed a man exit and re-enter the trail repeatedly.
Police said he started talking with the woman, who began to walk away because she was concerned for her safety. At that point, the man exposed himself, the woman told officers.
In the second incident, police said, the man was described as being a 25- to 35-year-old Hispanic male with short buzz cut-type hair, some facial growth, 5 feet, 7-9 inches tall and weighing 170-180 pounds. He was reportedly wearing a gray hoodie sweatshirt, a dark gray shirt, blue jeans and high-top sneakers.
Jacksonville Beach police said the woman who called about the suspicious man at Sunshine Park said the man followed her as she used the track at the park, but never made contact. She said she left the park because he made her feel uneasy.
She described the man she saw as a Hispanic male, stocky build in his mid-20s, about 5 feet, 9 inches tall and weighing about 180 pounds. She said his hair was short with a brush-cut style.
Neighborhood on edge after crime alert
Frequent visitors to Hanna Park said the incidents won't stop them from going to the park, but they will be more cautious.
“I know when I have kids one day, I intend to bring them here, because it seems like a family-oriented place; you want to have fun and it’s safe. You don't have to worry about that kind of thing. But I guess that's changed,” Jessica Kavanagh said. “I think that I'm pretty aware of my surroundings but this might make me want to be a little bit more aware, and I probably wouldn't want to come here by myself now.”
Donna McGowan, who was visiting the park from Maine on Friday, had similar concerns.
“I wouldn't come here by myself,” McGowan said. “There is security that goes by a lot, so I wouldn't feel bad if I was with somebody else to come back here.”
Donna Reinert said the news of the attacks made her angry.
“I'm sad, No. 1, because I know that somebody was victimized in this beautiful place that has no place for violence,” said Reinert, who was visiting from Cincinnati. “And I am angry that now I have to walk on the beach and I have to go through the park with a second set of eyes looking out for my own safety and well-being as well as my daughter's.”
The incidents have also concerned employees at nearby businesses.
"Makes me want to put my alarm on," said Lauren Killian, a secretary at a business. "That's really disgusting. I have kids. I have grandbabies. So it will definitely keep me on alert."
Killian said she was shocked to hear what had happened in the normally quiet area.
"I hope they get whoever is doing it. I really do," she said. "We have military guys, military families. I mean, there's really hardly ever anything that goes down around here."
Anyone who has any information in either case is asked to call the Sheriff's Office at 904-630-0500 or email JSOCrimeTips@jaxsheriff.org. To remain anonymous, contact Crime Stoppers at 1-866-845-TIPS.
Anyone with information about the man seen in Jacksonville Beach is asked to call the police department at 904-270-1661.