Woman who fought off attacker in Lakewood: 'It was just instinct'

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LAKEWOOD, Washington —

Police in Lakewood are looking for a man who sexually assaulted a woman at a Walgreens last Friday, the Lakewood Police Department said.

"It was really traumatizing," Candy Kersey told KIRO 7 on Thursday.

Kersey went to the Walgreen’s in the 9500 block of Bridgeport Way at about 10:20 p.m., police said. She was walking from her car to the store when a man walked up to her and asked her for a cigarette. She gave him one and thought he was going to ask for a light, too, but then noticed that he had exposed himself and appeared to be touching himself with his other hand, police said. She walked past him and entered the store.

Kersey was in the store for about 10 minutes and looked around to see if the man was still outside before she left, police said. She didn’t see him, and started to walk toward her car. The man emerged from behind a pillar and grabbed her buttocks from behind. Kersey turned to confront the man, who started to run away.

"He was standing behind one of the brick pillars, and when I walked past it, that's when he jumped out," Kersey said.

Kersey had dropped her bag and purse, and as she was reaching to pick up her things, the man returned and grabbed her, police said. He lifted her off the ground and groped her with his hands. Kersey struggled to break free from the man’s grip, but was able to put her feed on a parked car and push hard enough to cause the man to lose his balance and let her go.

"It was just instinct," she said. "His penis was out, and I was just trying to get away, and I was upset at the way he grabbed me. It wasn't just a little grab on the butt; he was, like, up in there.

"I was thinking, 'Is he going to take me around the corner and rape me?'"

The woman grabbed her cell phone and told the man she was calling police, and the man ran away southbound on Bridgeport Way.

As Kersey was picking up her belongings, she noticed her wallet was missing, police said.

Officers arrived and tried to track the man with a K9 unit, but the search was unsuccessful.

Police said Kersey probably saved herself from a much worse situation by fighting back.

"She's definitely thrashing, and kicking, and doing her best to get this guy off her back," Lakewood police Lt. Chris Lawler said.

Police described the man as black and about 20 years old, and 5 feet 10 inches tall with a slight build and black hair. He was seen wearing a baseball cap, dark-colored vest, long-sleeved shirt and jeans. The wallet Kersey said was stolen is red with white polka dots and has not been found.