News, Jazz, NPR
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations
University Beat

Fourth Woman Attacked on University of Florida Campus

9-9-14_UF_Attacks1M.jpg
University of Florida Police

Four separate but similar attacks on women on or around the University of Florida campus over the past nine days has the school on edge and police searching for a man they believe is responsible for all of them.

The most recent attack happened Sunday evening, just before 9 p.m., when a man tackled a woman walking on campus. The victim, a 20-year-old, kicked the suspect in the groin before he ran away.

Investigators say there are similarities between Sunday's attack and three others stemming back to Aug. 30, and campus police are teaming up with local, county and state law enforcement in an attempt to stop the next one.

"You can see the common denominators. These women are being grabbed from behind, they're being thrown down. They're being attacked, and this guy is running when there's a struggle," said University Police Chief Linda Stump.

A similar attack occurred Friday when a student says a 6-foot-tall man with short brown hair and a beard grabbed her near a school library. She punched the attacker and he ran away.

Two other attacks occurred a couple of blocks off of campus -- the first on Aug. 30 when thousands were on campus for a football game. A 21-year-old woman was beaten even though there were hundreds of police officers nearby for the game.

A bystander heard the woman screaming and came to her aid, scaring the suspect off, police said, but the victim's clothing was torn, and her underwear ripped off.

Hours later, just before 1 a.m. on Aug. 31, another woman was grabbed and thrown into bushes. Witnesses heard her scream and came to her aid, but not before the suspect got away.

None of the women have been able to give a good enough description to police for a composite sketch, said Gainesville police Officer Ben Tobias.

But the details they have provided have led police to believe it could be the same attacker. And the Florida Department of Law Enforcement is conducting DNA analysis on clothing from the cases.

In all cases the victims described the attacker as a white male, 6-feet or taller, with a heavy build. Each attacker wore Florida Gator clothing, either blue or orange, police said, allowing him to blend in quickly in his surroundings.

"It is instantaneous that this person is able to blend," Stump said. "Especially when you have the numbers of people that we have walking out on campus at night, or at a football game when we have 90,000 (fans) walking around in orange and blue."

University officials say they have swung into action, increasing the number of police patrols and escorts it offers through its Student Nighttime Auxiliary Patrol. It is keeping in contact with concerned parents with regular updates.