Good samaritans foil BART sex assaultBy Karl Fischer
A few minutes after helping open the El Cerrito Del Norte BART station, station agent Phaethon Brown found trouble lurking in the bushes about 150 feet from his chair.
"We yelled a couple times, and he sort of hugged her. They looked like they were hugging, like they were a couple," Brown said. "Then we saw he had a knife at her throat."
Brown and fellow station agent Carl Lennar were preparing to start their day when a regular passenger, a worker at a nearby U.S. post office, reported hearing noises coming from a secluded spot just south of the station, on the Ohlone Greenway.
While they spoke, two joggers approached with similar information: something suspicious happening in the bushes near the path.
Moments later, the group of good Samaritans helped break up an attempted rape last weekend. While detectives know about no other similar cases in the area, police asked the public again Friday for help identifying an attacker who nearly made a dire situation even more dangerous.
"One of our regular customers came up to us and let us know she'd heard some screams' just south of the station last Saturday, Brown said. "We were able to basically scare the gentleman off the young lady and help her get away."
Witnesses called police a few minutes after 6 a.m. Feb. 3 to report the attack.
The victim, a middle-aged woman, noticed her attacker following her through the parking lot of the Target store on San Pablo Avenue as she walked to the station, which opens at 6 a.m., police Cpl. Don Horgan said.
The attacker punched her face, grabbed her and forced her to a spot where large electrical equipment partially blocks the view from the path, police said, near where Hill Street meets the path.
"They were in the bushes directly under the track. It was pitch-black. There's no lighting on the pathway there," Brown said.
When people approached, the attacker fled. Brown said the victim had obviously been punched in the face. She told him that the man had followed her through the Target parking lot and was pulling her pants down when they were found.
Police did not report the attack to the public for several days because there were some evidentiary leads that could have been jeopardized by the disclosure, El Cerrito police Cmdr. Mike Regan said Friday.
Detectives have not identified a suspect and would like to talk to anyone who got a good look at the man.
Copyright ©2007 Vallejo Times-Herald. Published 02/10/2007.