A Seattle woman who fought off a man who tried to rape her at Golden Gardens Park is now motivating other women to learn skills to protect themselves.
This morning, Kelly Herron helped lead a free self-defense class that was organized by her employer, RealSelf, which teamed up with self-defense school Fighting Chance Seattle.
Herron said she took a self-defense class with this school three weeks before the attack.
“It makes me feel like coming forward was completely worth it, if it can even save one person,” said Herron.
Earlier this month, Herron was attacked by a homeless man in a public restroom while she was on a run at Golden Gardens Park.
Herron fought off the suspect, Gary Steiner, who’s now in jail facing charges of assault and attempted rape.
“I want other women to feel empowered in that way too, to see how strong they are,” said Herron.
Jordan Giarratano, owner of Fighting Chance Seattle, said self-defense is about being aware and seeing red flags.
“What’s amazing about Kelly’s story is how quickly she was able to fight back and how viciously,” said Giarratano.
He said he’s happy his school could help host this class, which was held at Block 41 Event Space in Belltown.
The class was posted online and quickly filled up.
Connie Polzin said she was inspired by Herron speaking out about what happened.
“There are women all over the country taking self-defense classes. It’s phenomenal. I really admired her,” said Polzin.
Camille Sutherland, 27, said she walks at night all the time and this class will give her more confidence.
“You hope you will be able to recall the skills you learn,” said Sutherland. “When I heard her story, I thought, 'I am not going to be the unlucky ones who waited too long.'”
Herron said staying safe is not about luck, but about being prepared when the times come that you have to protect yourself.
"It makes me grateful that coming forward really did make me a difference,” said Herron.
ABOUT THE ATTACK
When a woman training for a marathon stopped at a Golden Gardens Park restroom a homeless sex offender – who was hiding in the stalls – punched her repeatedly.
The attempted rape happened March 5 when Herron was on mile 4 of her long run. Officers said 40-year-old Gary Steiner punched the victim in the face nearly half a dozen times, wrestled her to the ground, and pulled at her pants.
But Heron said, “Not today.” And she fought back.
“We’re down on the ground … This is where I was clawing his face and screaming at him,” she told KIRO 7 News. “I was screaming at him, ‘not today, m-----------.’ Being loud and not afraid. I mean you are afraid, but letting him know you are not taking me down today. You are not going to win this fight.”
The incident was so violent the door on one of the stalls broke and Steiner was trapped inside; passers-by locked the outside door as well.
Herron wasn’t the suspect’s only victim. After KIRO 7 News’ report, another victim came forward. She was attacked at 15th Avenue and Market Street in Ballard just weeks before the restroom attack. That woman also fought back.
KIRO 7 News pulled his criminal record. The Clark County Sheriff’s Office lists Steiner as a transient level III sex offender, the level most likely to re-offend.
Steiner was charged with three counts of sexual abuse in 1999 for attacking several women in Maricopa County, Arizona.
Nine years later he was charged with indecent exposure.
Steiner remains in King County Jail facing attempted rape and assault charges.
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