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Tourist fights off attacker with soda bottle

Published: Thursday, Oct. 4 2012 4:35 p.m. MDT

SANDY — A woman was able to fight off a man who grabbed her and wrestled her to the ground Wednesday night near a light-rail station, police said.

The search for the man continued Thursday.

About 11:50 p.m. Wednesday, a 25-year-old woman got off a TRAX train near 10000 South and State Street, across from Jordan High School.

The woman, who is not from Utah and was headed back to her hotel, was walking on the sidewalk toward State Street when she noticed a man was following her, said Sandy Police Sgt. Jon Arnold.

"She recognized that there was someone behind her," he said.

Before she could react, the man grabbed her in a "bear hug" from behind and pulled her to the ground, Arnold said. The man then pulled out a hunting knife and told her to be quiet, he said.

The woman was able to reach a full soda pop bottle in her pocket and used it to fight off the attacker, Arnold said. "She gets up to run off, (and) he grabs her by her foot."

The woman's foot came out of her shoe, and she called 911 on her cellphone as she ran into a nearby field. While on the phone with a dispatcher, the man grabbed the phone out of her hand and ran off in the opposite direction.

"You hear her say, 'Hey,' and then you can hear the phone rubbing against his leg as he's running with the phone. He did not disconnect the phone," Arnold said.

Neither the woman's shoe nor her phone had been located.

After reviewing surveillance video, Sandy police said the woman arrived at the TRAX station 10 minutes before the man who attacked her arrived on a separate train. Investigators didn't know how he had caught up with her.

The man was described as being in his 30s and having shaggy blond hair. He was last seen wearing an orange hoodie and khaki pants.

"She said he smelled like he hadn't showered in a couple of days. She thought he was possibly homeless," Arnold said.

The Sandy Civic Center TRAX platform, 115 E. Sego Lily Drive (9800 South), is near the Dimple Dell gully where there has been a problem with homeless camps in the past. But Arnold said it has been awhile since police have had issues with homeless people in that area.

Investigators were also trying to determine a motive for the attack. Detectives were unsure Thursday if it was robbery, a sexual assault or something else. The man only got away with the woman's cellphone, and he did not make any sexual references or grope her, even when he tackled her to the ground, Arnold said.

"He didn't make any statements. He didn't tell her whether he was going to do anything," he said. "Even when he had the knife, he just said, 'Be quiet.'"

Anyone with information on the attack can call police at 801-840-4000.

E-mail: preavy@desnews.com

Twitter: DNewsCrimeTeam

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