CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va.— After a 14-year-old girl was attacked in Ettrick Park while running last Friday, police offered tips to help people stay safe and aware.
The alleged incident happened at Ettrick Park, located at 20400 Laurel Road, on Friday, Feb. 23, according to police. The teen said she was running on a trail between 4 and 4:25 p.m. when an unknown man approached her from behind, grabbed her and pulled her to the ground.
Police said the victim was able to fight off the suspect and escape by fleeing on Laurel Road in the direction of Dupuy Road. She was not injured during the incident.
"It's a wonder place out here and its wonderful people that work here" says Wanda Harrison who frequents the park often but is making changes to her routine "Well I'm going to still walk but I make sure I have someone walking with me because it's much safer that way, really it is".
Police said no matter where you live or go for fun, there are things you can do to protect yourself, starting with the buddy system, if possible.
Take someone with you to walk or run on a trail, but if that's not always possible, there are ways to defend yourself from an attack.
"We recommend that you run with a partner, if you don't have anyone to run with, make sure your cellphone is fully charged, make sure you tell someone where you are going, might want to carry a whistle,” said Chesterfield County Police Officer Kelly Young.
"I have pepper spray on my key chain," said Marlee Dance of Dance's Sporting Goods, who added that pepper spray and a stun gun are good alternatives, but you need to think carefully about what you want to carry.
"The stun gun that we carry, you have to literally be on top of that person to stun them and I don't want that person to get that close to me, so if I feel like there's a problem, I'd rather get my mace out and spray,” she added.
Chesterfield County Police also said leave your headphones or ear buds at home.
"Somebody could come up behind you and you'd never know it, you couldn't hear them," said Officer Young.
Many have for years carried pepper spray on a key chain or in a purse, but Dance warned that pepper spray can expire, so check the side of the canister to make sure yours is still good.
The suspect is described as a black male in his mid-40s with a dark complexion and a grey, patchy beard. His appearance was described as “dirty and ragged.”
He was seen wearing a black beanie, a navy-blue zip-up hooded sweatshirt and dirty blue jeans.
That description caused retired Army veteran Melvin Grayson to do an about-face and call police.
“When I heard about the incident on CBS 6 News, I immediately said I saw that gentleman at the Food Lion (Ettrick) and I immediately called Chesterfield Police,” said Grayson.
Anyone with information should contact the Chesterfield County Police Department at 804-748-1251 or Crime Solvers at 804-748-0660 or through the P3 app.