Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Latest "groper" attack provides more clues

By Jennifer Sullivan
Seattle Times staff reporter

For two years, Seattle police have been a few steps behind a man they say has attacked nearly two dozen women in Beacon Hill and Rainier Valley.

But after an attack on Saturday morning in the 7500 block of Renton Avenue South, police say they might have a better line on the man they call "the groper." South Precinct Capt. Les Liggins said witnesses to the recent attack have provided sexual-assault-unit detectives with better descriptions of the assailant and the vehicle he was seen driving.

"We're very much on this," Liggins said Monday.

Witnesses to the attack around 10 a.m. Saturday told police they saw a man grope an Asian or Asian-American woman who was walking with a toddler. The woman screamed.

A witness tried to take photos of the man's car and license plate with a cellphone camera, but the suspect knocked the witness down and stole the phone, police said.

The man is described as black, about 5-foot-10, with light-colored shaving bumps on the left side of his face. Earlier descriptions were even more sketchy, and no one had previously provided a vehicle description.

Witnesses said the woman ran north with the child after she was attacked. Police have not yet spoken with her and hope that she comes forward.

Seattle police Lt. James Koutsky said this was the 23rd attack on girls and women in the area since August 2006. None of the victims, who range from teenagers to 52, has been raped or critically injured in the attacks. Most were Asian or Asian American.

Police said the man normally runs off after his victims have screamed for help. Many of the attacks have occurred at bus stops.

Police said this is the first time the man has attacked since March, and the sixth time since January. In January, the suspect grabbed and chased two girls ages 13 and 14.

The attacks have generated fear in several South Seattle neighborhoods. The Chinese Information and Service Center in Seattle has warned women about the attacks and even offered lessons on self-defense tactics. In March, when the center offered a community meeting about the attacks, more than 100 people attended.

Police are asking that anyone with information about the suspect or the most recent attack call the department's sexual-assault unit at 206-684-5575.

Jennifer Sullivan: 206-464-8294 or jensullivan@seattletimes.com

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