TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - “We don’t have a situation for people to panic about,” University of Arizona Police Chief Brian Seastone said Wednesday after two attacks near campus were reported in the last week.
But, that isn’t calming fears. Freshman Maria Marcias and Kyrenna Nido said news of the assaults, shared on social media, put them on high alert.
“It was in the back of my head before, but like now even more. It’s more like a reality, I guess," Marcias said.
“There’s a possibility it could happen to me, too. It’s not like I’m just going to target this girl, it could happen to her,” said Nido.
A Clery Timely warning was sent out by the UAPD to students, faculty and staff in reference to the two incidents Tuesday. While the Tucson Police Department is investigating, since the incidents happened off campus, Chief Seastone said he wanted to let the campus know what was going on.
The first incident took place in the 1500 block of East Drachman at 1:30 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 3. Police said a woman was attacked from behind and pushed to the ground while the suspect tried to take her phone. The victim was able to fight back and the suspect fled.
The second incident was reported on Monday, Nov. 5 shortly after 8:30 p.m. near Mansfeld Middle School at Sixth and Highland. According to UAPD, the victim was unable to describe the initial attack, but did recall waking up while she was being dragged by the suspect.
The second victim stated she was able to stand up and began kicking and punching the suspect, who then ran from the area. Police said he was able grab the victim’s phone, which was later recovered.
“The University of Arizona Police Department is working to enhance campus safety in response to two recent student assaults currently under investigation by the Tucson Police Department,” said Chief Seastone. “This includes addressing widespread rumors among the student population about the actual extent of the two assaults last week.”
Marcias said she shared the photos with her friend and has heard other people talking about it, too. Photos, shared by one of the reported attack victims, have been spread on Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat.
Chief Seastone said a rumor of a “gang initiation” going on this week, which was the alleged motive for the attacks, was “absolutely false.”
“The fact that it can happen to anybody at any time, not just at night. I get a little paranoid and seeing that it was girls that said it was a walk I take everyday, it was just very scary," said Nido.
UAPD said a good option is to turn that walk, into a safe ride. Run by students, Safe Ride Assistant Operations Director Gabriel Garcia said the service is essentially a free Uber or Lyft on and around campus.
“Some of the areas in Tucson, because it’s not well lit, some people just get a little scared or they don’t feel safe doing it. Us being here, really helps people get to places the safest possible way I believe," said Garcia.
Tucson Police Assistant Chief Carla Johnson said a small task force was out Tuesday night to observe the areas where the attacks happened and talk to people walking through. TPD said officers will continue doing that, and take other steps, with UAPD in the investigation.
Assistant Chief Johnson added there was a third assault, that happened in October, that TPD is also investigating. While the incidents were committed about a mile apart from each other, officials said there is no indication the assaults are related.
UAPD said there are no credible leads on who the suspect, or suspects, could be. One victim described her attacker as a Hispanic man in a grey hoodie, the other described her attacker as a white male, 6-foot tall with shoulder-length hair and a thick beard and moustache.
“It’s two incidents and that may not seem like a lot, but that’s two people who were hurt and it doesn’t take much for another two people and another two people to be hurt," said Marcias.
Anyone with information about either of these incidents is asked to call 911 or 88-CRIME, for those who wish to remain anonymous.
UAPD offers the following safety tips:
- Utilize ASUA Safe Ride 520-621-7233
- When possible walk in groups
- Be aware of your surroundings
- Report suspicious and unusual activity by calling 911.
- Download and use the UA Live Safe app on your smartpone. The Safewalk feature allows students to connect with friends to virtually monitor their walk through the phone.