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LAPD steps up investigation of string of attacks on women in park

LAPD stepping up hunt for man believed responsible for attacks on women in Ernest E. Debs Regional Park
Debs Park attacker remains a mystery. Suspect known to ride a bike and may be a local, detective says
Montecito Heights park has been the scene of three attacks this year, each bolder than the last

The LAPD is stepping up its effort to identify the man believed responsible for three attacks on women in Ernest E. Debs Regional Park, with officers combing the area for information.

The man has struck at least three times this year and appears to be getting bolder and more dangerous with each encounter, police said. He is believed to be 20 to 25 years old, said LAPD Det. David Meza.

In recent weeks, the LAPD stepped up patrols at the Montecito Heights park and gathered information from park users.

Meza said he does not believe the suspect is a transient, but he may be a local because he used a bicycle for transportation on two occasions.

The first signs of trouble occurred Jan. 13 when a woman walking alone was groped by a man on a bicycle.

The next incident occurred June 25 when a man riding a green bicycle approached a woman and asked to borrow her cellphone. Once he got close to her, he exposed his genitals, investigators said.

Then, on July 20, a 38-year-old hairdresser was walking her dog on a trail in the park about 6:30 a.m. when a man armed with a knife approached her. The man, who had been jogging on the trail, grabbed the victim by the shoulder and punched her in the face.

With the woman on the ground, the suspect stood over her for a few seconds before running off, according to police.

In at least one of the attacks, the man spoke Spanish to the victim. He is described as a 5-foot-7 or a 5-foot-8 Latino, weighing 140 to 160 pounds with a light complexion.

Meza said at least one man, who was drinking in a car at the park, was investigated but was ruled out as a suspect after victims looked at photographs of him and said he was far taller than the man who attacked them.

Detectives are asking anyone with information to call Hollenbeck Division detectives at (323) 342-4110.

Follow Southern California crime @lacrimes.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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