Flagstaff police are investigating another rape, this one occurring near downtown early Thursday morning.
The rape was reported on the heels of the confirmation that two other rapes that happened this year — one in January, the other July 21 — were committed by the same suspect.
“At this point, we do not know if it is linked to the other two,” said Sgt. James Jackson of the Flagstaff Police Department.
But in all of the reported rapes, the women attacked were leaving the downtown bar district in the early morning hours when they were contacted by a Native American male suspect.
According to information from the police department, a woman told police she was walking alone from the downtown area north on Humphreys Street at about 1:30 a.m. She told investigators that she was being followed on foot by a man. As she walked west on Cherry Avenue, the man continued to follow her.
“At one point, the victim began to run, and the suspect ran after her, catching her in the area of Cherry and Kendrick, where the victim was physically and sexually assaulted by this suspect,” according to a statement from the police department.
The woman described her attacker as a Native American, heavyset, 5 feet, 10 inches to 6 feet tall, wearing a gray shirt. The suspect also had his hair neatly combed back and tied in a pony tail.
After the attack, the woman was traumatized and upset and went home before presenting herself to Flagstaff Medical Center around 10 a.m. Thursday to report the rape.
TWO CASES LINKED
Police announced Monday that the Arizona Department of Public Safety Crime Lab confirmed that DNA samples from the rapes reported on Jan. 18 and July 21 are of the same suspect.
“We are formally forming a task force on this,” said Police Chief Kevin Treadway.
“We will continue to have all our resources involved.”
The entire detective division of the police department has been working both cases along with the FBI, the Coconino County Sheriff’s Office, the NAU Police Department, the U.S. Marshal’s Service and the crime lab.
Police officials have also been working with NAU police to notify incoming students of the recent crimes.
The department has also been in contact with agencies throughout the state, and the suspect’s DNA profile has been entered into national and statewide databases in a search for a match and an identity on the suspect.
Extra officers have been patrolling the downtown area in the early morning hours to identify leads, provide extra security and try to gather extra evidence.
The downtown patrols are being amplified in the wake of this newest attack.
All downtown bar owners have been given a composite sketch of the suspect as well. And detectives are working on getting a composite of the suspect from the most recent attack.
In the Jan. 18 attack, the suspect was described as a heavyset Native American, between 25 and 30 years old. In the July 21 attack, the suspect was described as a Native American in his late 20s, about 6 feet tall, 200 pounds, with medium-length black hair. He was wearing a gray, short-sleeve T-shirt, pants and an unknown type of shoes.
Police officials are urging people to take precautions and be aware of their surroundings and encourage single women to arrange for rides home when leaving businesses late at night. Or, women should be in the company of others when walking. Police officials are asking residents to contact them if they have information on any suspicious activity that might be related to identifying the suspect in any of the rape cases.
They can contact the police department at 774-1414, Detective Bishop at 679-4058, Sgt. Shantz at 679-4075, Sgt. Beckman at 679-4056, or Silent Witness at 774-6111.
Larry Hendricks can be reached at 556-2262 or firstname.lastname@example.org.