'Bear hug' release followed up by similar incident, description

The second victim thought the composite description could be the same person.
Heather Finn / Graphic Designer

MU police are searching for a suspect involved in an unwanted "bear hug" Wednesday morning and a similar incident Thursday night.

A woman reported she was assaulted at about 9:35 a.m. Wednesday while walking on Ninth Street toward Ellis Library, according to a Clery release. MU Police Department spokesman Brian Weimer confirmed the victim was a student.

"The female victim stated while walking to Ellis Library she passed an unknown individual who then turned, came up behind her and wrapped his arms around her, putting her in a 'bear hug,'" the Clery release stated.

The woman attempted to free herself but was unable to. The incident ended when the suspected saw an unidentified individual approaching them. The suspect freed her and said, “Oh, I thought you were someone else‚” before fleeing the scene, the release stated.

The suspect is described in the release as a college-aged, clean-shaven white man approximately 5 feet 9 inches tall with a thin build, dark brown hair, brown eyes, noticeable acne on his face and braces who was last seen wearing blue jeans and a white T-shirt.

MUPD is continuing the investigation and taking the matter very seriously, Weimer said. The department is using video surveillance to investigate and police met with the victim Thursday morning.

“Why would we waste everybody’s time to send out a Clery release?” Weimer said. "You cannot run up behind (someone) and grab them. That’s assault.”

The second release went out Thursday night.

At about 4:56 p.m., according to the Clery release, a woman was walking up the stairs of the Hitt Street Parking Garage when she noticed a man following her. She stopped as the man walked up to her and asked her, “Do I know you?” The victim responded, “No, I don’t know you," and the suspect walked away. The suspect did not touch the woman, but she felt threatened, the release stated.

The description of the suspect is similar to the release sent out by MUPD earlier Thursday. The second victim felt it might be similar.

The suspect in the second incident was described as college-aged, 6-foot-tall man with a thin build, brown hair and braces last seen wearing a dark sweatshirt and blue jeans.

At the MU police station, the second victim was shown a composite image created by the first victim. The second victim felt it might be the same person, according to the release.

Weimer said the two reports are more severe than typical campus crime because the incidents involve contact with another person.

“Most on-campus crime is larceny theft," Weimer said. "Obviously this is more severe. We’re out here 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Unfortunately, we face crime all the time.”

As far as the community not taking the release seriously, Weimer said the department is just doing its job.

“We’re doing our job as far as the police department to keep the community safe,” Weimer said. “If you don’t like it, you can simply delete it. But hopefully you’ll read it to take appropriate action to keep yourself safe. The purpose of the alerts are to notify the community so they can make themselves safe. If they have the info, they can take the appropriate action. You can still do everything correct and unfortunately still be the victim of the crime.”

This is the eighth Clery release of the semester, four times the number of releases in fall 2011, and the 13th in 2012.

According to MUPD's annual Campus Crime and Fire Safety Report, a Clery release is sent out to students when the department determines there is a serious or continuing threat to the campus community.

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