SEATTLE - University of Washington campus police are increasing patrols after they say an 18-year-old female student was sexually assaulted Monday afternoon.
The university says a stranger followed the student into her room without the victim noticing.
Campus police say as of Thursday afternoon, detectives are combing through surveillance video to try and get pictures of the suspect.
Investigators are still looking into whether the suspect is a student – but students who do live on campus say it wouldn’t be hard for a nonstudent to get in.
“It was just shocking and horrifying because that could be any of us,” said Isabel Pfeifer, a freshman at the university.
She lives in the northeast part of campus, where UW police say a sexual assault happened around 3:30 p.m. Monday. The 18-year-old woman had just finished a class.
“Somebody she didn’t know literally followed her back into her room as she was opening the door, and it was in her room where she was assaulted,” said Maj. Steve Rittereiser with the UW Police Department.
“It’s just midday and the guy blatantly followed her into her room, the dorm, I don’t understand how that could happen and get to that situation,” Pfeifer said.
University police won’t identify the hall where the assault happened, but said all residence portions of campus housing are locked. At the two major dorms in the northeast part of campus, students need to swipe a card to get in.
But freshman Emily Holderness says even if the suspect was not a student, it wouldn’t be hard for someone to access the residence areas.
“People swipe cards for each other on the elevator on the way up constantly, so there’s not really any way to avoid it, other than to be suspicious of everyone you let in,” Holderness said.
The description of the suspect: He’s in his late teens or early 20’s, about 6 feet, 1 inch tall, medium build, with a thin mustache. He was wearing a hoodie and sunglasses.
Since police released the description Wednesday, many KIRO7 viewers have asked on social media why the description doesn’t include skin color. KIRO7’s Deedee Sun took that question to campus police and asked if there have been any policy changes.
“There’s no policy changes, we always provide the best accurate description that we can of an individual. A productive kind of information of an individual that will lead us to potentially who the suspect is, and we do that for the purposes of protecting our community,” Rittereiser said.
Especially with the suspect still at large, Pfeifer says she’s making sure to carry a personal alarm with her at all times.
“It like a ladybug but it’s actually really high-tech. If I rip this out it’ll sound an alarm, and it beeps and it has a really bright LED light,” she said.
Pfeifer also says she is keeping her guard up.
“I’m definitely going to be aware of any suspect around me, behind me, following me,” she said.
University police said in 2016, there were four rapes and 10 fondling cases on campus. However, the UW police department also says sexual assault crimes are one of the most underreported.
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