AUSTIN,Texas - Austin Police are searching for a sexual assault suspect who could have ties to two separate attacks. The most recent happened on Friday along the hike and bike trail off Rainey Street.
APD has released a description of the suspect:
-White or Hispanic male
-5'10" to 6'0"
-Shaggy short hair
The suspect was last seen on the trail without a shirt and without shoes, only wearing blue jeans. Police are asking for the public's help to track him down.
A rapist on the run - leaving those who live in the Rainey Street area scared he may attack again.
"Just for people to know that this happened. I don't want to find out once he gets caught, after he's attacked three other women. I want to prevent any other incidents from happening," said Vania Lanas, member of Austin Runners Club.
Austin Police said a woman was sexually assaulted on the hike and bike trail near East Avenue and Cummings Street around 5:45 Friday morning.
Another jogger reportedly heard the woman scream and was able to stop the attack. Although early, several people were on the trail that morning, including fellow members of the running group Vania Lanas is part of.
They took it into their own hands to warn others about the incident through social media over the weekend. APD waited to release information on Monday. Heather Bellino with Texas Advocacy Project points out why that might be the case.
"There are absolutely cases where the community should not be notified right away because it could hurt the actual investigation," said Heather Bellino, executive director, Texas Advocacy Project.
She says those who are assaulted undergo a trauma, which can cause the brain to process things differently. In some cases, waiting could prove to be beneficial.
"Sometimes if we are repeating what a survivor says immediately after it happens, we might even be giving false information out. That can be very dangerous too. Timelines get messed up, definitely descriptions can get messed up, it takes some time for them to process that," said Bellino.
APD's Sex Crimes Unit is now looking into whether that same suspect is connected to an attack that happened two miles down the trail on August 22nd. In that case, a woman reported being grabbed from behind while jogging at Austin High School around 5:00 am. But, she was able to get away. Regardless of the situation, APD said to stay on high alert.
"Yell, scream, fight back, do whatever you need to do. Keep a self defense item with you, something like pepper spray or a knife but, something that you're comfortable with using as well," said Officer Destiny Winston, Austin Police Department.
APD said they're working closely with the Parks and Recreation Department. On top of that, there will be an increased police presence on and around the trail.