A woman was grabbed from behind while walking through UF’s campus Sunday night, launching a response from both UF Police and Gainesville Police officers. 

At about 8:42 p.m., the woman — a UF student — was walking near a vending area between McCarty Hall buildings B and C when a man grabbed her. UPD spokesman Brad Barber said the woman then kicked the man. He then fled on foot toward the Reitz Union.

She was not injured.

Despite arriving at the scene within three minutes and setting up a security perimeter that surrounded campus, Barber said the man who grabbed the woman was not located.

The man was white and wearing an orange shirt, black gym shorts and a black baseball cap. His description was similar to that of a man who attacked three different women both on and near campus in the last two weeks, UF spokeswoman Janine Sikes said.

“Certainly we would like to have some answers,” Sikes said. “It’s concerning.”

The previous suspect was described as a white male either in his late 20s or early 30s. He is between 6’4” and 6’5” inches and around 250 to 260 pounds. 

Rain spilled into storm drains as dozens of soaked officers at security checkpoints stopped cars from leaving campus, attempting to locate the man. 

“We absolutely take it personal,” UPD Chief of Police Linda Stump said. “We’re running out every lead we get.”

She identified the last four incidents as “predatory behavior.”

“We are concerned it may or will escalate,” Stump said.

As of Sunday night, five GPD officers were patrolling campus along with UPD, Stump said. Security personnel were also set up around Library West to protect students and remind them not to walk alone. 

To help students travel safely across campus, Sikes said two vans were added to the Student Nighttime Auxiliary Patrol on Friday. She said UF is currently seeking to expand GOTCHA and Later Gator services as well.

Stump said if SNAP gets backed up or other transportation methods are not available, students can call UPD for an officer escort. Officers will give students rides and walk with students across campus if needed.

In the back halls of UPD, boots clopped and doors slammed as officers traded information and helped set up the Emergency Operations Center, which answered dozens of parent and student phone calls, controlled rumors and collected suspect information. 

The center combined efforts with UPD, the Dean of Students Office, Student Affairs, Greek life and other campus organizations to monitor phone lines.

This was the first time, to Stump’s knowledge, that the center had been put in place to thwart violent incidents and locate a suspect.

“You know, I’ve been here 11 years, and we’ve never set it up for anything other than hurricanes,” she said.

The four victims involved in the series of incidents are cooperating with police, Sikes said.

“These women have been incredibly strong in that they have done everything right,” Sikes said. “They have screamed and fought, and that’s what we have asked our students to do if faced with a similar situation. All of us have got to double down in taking care of each other and making good choices moving forward.”

Anyone with information regarding the incidents should contact UPD or GPD. Officers strongly encourage individuals to remain aware of their surroundings and to call 911 immediately to report any suspicious activity or individuals.

“We need help out there from the public,” Stump said. “We’ve got more eyes and ears out there than (UPD) will ever have, and we need those kind of phone calls from our campus.”

 

[A version of this story ran on page 1 on 9/8/2014 under the headline "GPD, UPD respond to fourth assault in 9 days "]

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