Despite a violent criminal history, a man wanted in connection with an assault and attempted rape in September is not considered a threat to public safety, Alexandria police say.
Authorities have been hunting for Shaun Carlan, 44, since about September 14 when city detectives identified him as the man who allegedly took a woman into a park between the 4600 and 4900 blocks of Eisenhower Ave. and assaulted her three days earlier.
The pair knew each other before the attack, said Det. Victor Ignacio, who is spearheading the investigation into the incident.
After meeting for drinks earlier in the evening, Carlan offered to give the woman a ride home on his moped, Ignacio said. The two stopped at a 7-Eleven to buy more beer and made their way to the park to continue drinking about 2 a.m., according to authorities. When Carlan made an unwanted advance, the woman refused him and “he lost it and he beat the living daylights out of her,” Ignacio said.
Suffering non life-threatening injuries, the woman was able to get free from Carlan. She contacted police shortly after fleeing. Authorities have been trying to track Carlan down ever since.
It’s not his first brush with the law. Carlan was about three months into a three-year period of supervised release when the incident occurred. He pleaded guilty in October 2010 to assault and battery and unlawful wounding for attacking two individuals in August of that year.
A judge sentenced Carlan to three years and three months of jail time, though all but nine months was suspended. He was released in June.
Police say Carlan’s criminal history is closely linked with alcohol. He is a bigger threat to his friends than the public, Ignacio said.
“I don’t think [Carlan] is going to go out there and rape somebody and beat somebody he doesn’t know,” he said. “He’s not a person we’d consider to be going out there and grabbing people.”
Deputy Chief Cleveland Spruill echoed Ignacio’s assessment of Carlan. Had police considered Carlan a danger, they would have alerted the public long before October 13, when the department released his description and called on residents for their help in finding him.
“There was no reason to think he was angry or was going to do anything to anyone else,” Spruill said. “Our policy is [whenever] we have a case where we feel like an individual who is at large is a threat to the community, we release that information.”
As to why authorities didn’t turn to the public for help locating Carlan earlier, it’s because they were running down “solid leads,” Spruill said.
Carlan, who listed Arlington as his place of residence when authorities busted him on the August 2010 charges, was staying at Carpenter’s Shelter in Alexandria when the incident occurred. Staff there said he vanished after September 11, according to court documents.
The last time law enforcement heard from Carlan was on September 13, when he phoned his therapist and said he was leaving the area. His probation officer last saw Carlan on September 9.
Detectives felt they could capture Carlan without the public’s help, Spruill said, but when leads dried up, officials turned to residents for assistance.
“The rush for us to get information out would be tempered by [whether] we have other, active investigative leads that we’re following up and we’re confident we’re going to get him,” he said. “Sometimes that doesn’t work out.”
Carlan is described as a white man, about 5-foot-11 and weighing roughly 200 pounds. Anyone with information regarding Carlan’s whereabouts is urged to contact the police department’s criminal investigations section at 703-746-4711 or the nonemergency line at 703-838-4444.