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Two women sexually assaulted near Lake Merritt

Sketch of suspect in Oakland sexual assaults

September 21, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
Oakland police are searching for a man responsible for two sexual assaults in the Lake Merritt area. The attacks have those who frequent the area on high alert.

It is not an area people are used to worrying about this happening. The first assault occurred at Lakeshore Avenue and 18th Street and the other at 18th Street and 3rd Avenue. Both happened Sunday night.

Walkers and joggers took to their normal routes around Lake Merritt Tuesday, but with heightened awareness after two robbery and sexual assault attacks on the east side of the lake.

"Both of the attacks started out as robberies and during the course of the robberies, the suspect did sexually assault both victims," Oakland Police Department spokesperson Holly Joshi said.

The attacker was armed, but police will not say what kind of weapon he used so as not to compromise their investigation.

Both victims were women on their way home Sunday evening. One was getting out of her car when she was attacked. Police say they are confident that both women were victims of the same attacker.

Deborah Rothstein lives in the area and walks her dog at all hours, including after dark.

"I walk my dog at one or two in the morning all the time," Rothstein said. "I know I shouldn't and I'm a little afraid to do it after I hear about the crimes, but at the same time, it's my lifestyle."

Others say they try to travel mostly in groups or during daylight hours.

"I come out here by myself as well, but I probably wouldn't come out after dark," Elizabeth Vanhouten said.

Toni Lewis and her friend usually walk together, but they are going to make one change.

"I was telling my friend we should turn our music down," Lewis said. "When we were walking on the other side, a bicyclist came up behind her and she couldn't see or hear because we had our earphones on and sometime I think that makes us vulnerable."

Police warn people to not let themselves become distracted by their electronics.

Oakland police released a sketch of the suspect late Tuesday evening.


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