Random sexual attack on jogger was year’s first

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Alexandria police say an attack on a Del Ray jogger late last month was the city’s first random case of sexual battery of the year.

The victim was running along the 200 block of E. Del Ray Ave. about 6 a.m. when the suspect grabbed her from behind and “inappropriately” touched her, police said. When the victim screamed, the suspect pushed her to the ground and fled the scene on foot, running toward Mount Vernon Avenue.

He was described as wearing dark paints and black skullcap and puffy, thigh length coat. The victim was not left with any serious injuries.

City police have investigated six sexual assaults and 18 sexual offenses in the previous six months, but none were random attacks, said department spokesman Jody Donaldson. The incident also marks the first random attack on a jogger of any kind in 2011, he said.

Sexual battery is defined as unwanted touching or groping, not rising to the level of what authorities would consider a sexual assault.

But the random nature of the attack spurred officials to send out an email blast about the assault just hours after it occurred, according to Donaldson.

“She was just out running and this person was just a stranger,” he said. “It’s a public concern.”

Local authorities drew criticism earlier this year after waiting more than a month to notify the public about a man wanted in connection with a sexual assault in September. Shaun Carlan, 44, was arrested in Pennsylvania about 15 days after police went public with the details of the attack.

Officers working that investigation said they didn’t deem Carlan, who had a criminal history of violence, a threat to the general public. They turned to residents for help after other leads dried up, Deputy Chief Cleveland Spruill said at the time.

Because little is known about the suspect wanted in connection with the assaulted jogger, authorities want residents to stay alert when exercising in public areas, Donaldson said. The suspect remains at large.

Officials urge joggers to avoid running with headphones and in dimly lit or dark areas. Running with a partner is recommended as is leaving the proposed route with friends or family.

Authorities ask anyone with information about the attack to contact Detective Kevin Thomas at 703-746-6273 or the department’s criminal investigations section at 703-746-6711. Witnesses can remain anonymous, police said.

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