Police won't confirm connection between strikingly similar attacks against women

Police won't confirm connection between strikingly similar attacks against women »Play Video
Police say one of the attacks happened here at the Failing Street Bridge, which crosses over Interstate 5.

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Portland police refuse to confirm if there is a connection between two strikingly similar attacks against women in North Portland over the last week, stating that the investigation is ongoing.

The first attack occurred last Monday when a man sexually assaulted a woman while she was walking her dogs in the Overlook neighborhood. Five days later and in the same neighborhood, a man violently robbed a woman of her iPhone and also tried to assault her, according to witnesses.

The On Your Side Investigators were the first to spot the similarities, including the fact that both attacks occurred within a block or two of each other, both happened between 9:30 p.m. and 10:30 p.m., and that the attacker was a stranger to both victims.

Furthermore, both victims gave police a very similar description of their attacker: a Hispanic man in his early to mid-20s, around 5 feet 5 inches to 5 feet 6 inches tall and wearing a black t-shirt or black hooded sweatshirt and blue jeans. One of the victims described the suspect as wearing a black baseball cap and carrying a messenger-style bag.

"It's the same one," Kanani King said, a neighbor who strongly believes the same man terrorized both women.

King lives near the Failing Street Bridge, which crosses over Interstate 5. On Friday Aug. 8 at about 9:30 p.m., King said she heard screams coming from the bridge and ran to help.

"I went up the stairs, saw a man straddled on top of her and I ran back down and called my brother. He came running after and went after (the attacker)," King said.

Police said the man robbed the victim of her iPhone after struggling with the woman to get the phone.

"I was scared but at the same time, I just reacted because all I heard was 'help me,' and then I saw her struggling so I knew that was no false alarm," King said.

King believes the man would have sexually assaulted the victim on the bridge had her brother not stepped in and chased him away.

Police searched the neighborhood but said they did not find anyone matching the suspect's description.  

King said she also met the other woman attacked in her neighborhood.

On Monday Aug. 4 at about 10:30 p.m., officers responded to a report of a sexual assault that occurred in the same Overlook neighborhood.

Officers met with a 54-year-old woman at her home who said she was walking her dogs near the Kaiser Permanente grounds at North Interstate Avenue and Overlook Street, when a suspect approached her, talked with her briefly, pulled her into the bushes and sexually assaulted her, according to police. They also said the victim was able to walk home and call 911.

Police said the woman was treated and released at a Portland hospital.  

A police spokesman said several officers, including a canine unit, searched the area but did not find the suspect. 

"I want him to know that I'm not scared," King said about the attacker. "The reason why is because you're not going to bully me out of my neighborhood and not stop me from doing what I do every single day."

In an email to the On Your Side Investigators, Portland police spokesman Greg Stewart said:

"We are looking into both these cases extensively.  I have been in contact with both robbery and sex assault detective sergeants again both today and over the course of this weekend to confirm our activities in this area.  Additionally, multiple press releases have been sent out on regarding both these cases.

I understand our frustration with our in ability to comment on ongoing investigations.  That is a long standing policy and is in done in the both the immediate interests of public safety (by not jeopardizing an ongoing investigation) and in the long term-term interests of retaining public trust by putting out accurate information.

Just to close, we have put significant resources into this and the investigation is ongoing and making progress."

Anyone with information about the iPhone attack is asked to contact the Portland Police Robbery Detail at (503) 823-0405.