PROVO — A man who has groped several women on and around the BYU campus struck two more times Wednesday, according to police.
In addition, a third woman stepped forward to report that she had also been groped, bringing the total number of incidents to 11 since Jan. 23, said Brigham Young University Police Lt. Arnold Lemmon.
Detectives were working Wednesday to determine whether the same man is responsible for each incident.
"There's some commonality through all of this. We think it may be the same guy, but we may have a copycat in the middle of it," Lemmon said.
What also has authorities concerned is the apparent increase in the severity and frequency of the gropings. Recently, the groper attacked a woman who was walking with a friend, whereas, in prior incidents, he only targeted women walking alone.
"So that tells us there's a little bit of an escalation there," the lieutenant said.
About 3 a.m. Tuesday, a man entered an apartment at the Wyview Park Student Family Housing, 150 E. Bulldog Blvd. (1230 North), on campus. A woman who got up after hearing the door open was confronted by the man in the apartment hallway.
"He grabbed her, fondled her. In the course of doing that, she screamed. Her roommate came out, and the perpetrator fled.
"If (Wednesday's incidents were committed by) the same guy who did the apartment, that takes it up a whole new level of severity. I don't think it's a dare thing or a guy who thinks he's funny. I think it's a guy who's doing it for sexual gratification," Lemmon said.
The gropings started on Jan. 23 with two incidents within 2 1/2 hours of each other near Helaman Halls and Heritage Halls. In those incidents, the man swatted or grabbed the buttocks of two women, according to police.
That action escalated to breast groping by the next reported incident on Feb. 19 near the Bell Tower, according to police. Six women have reported being groped since March 3.
On Wednesday, a woman walking near Heritage Halls was groped about 7:45 a.m. That incident was recorded on a nearby security camera, police said. While police were investigating that report, another woman came up to the officer and said she, too, had been a victim earlier.
About two hours later, at 9:45 a.m., another woman walking through a parking lot east of LaVell Edwards Stadium was groped.
"All of these women are walking. The perpetrator, he either runs by and gropes them, or he is just standing kind of in a casual stance, and as the victim walks by him, he reaches out and fondles her," Lemmon said. "He doesn't even break stride. He just runs by, grabs them, and keeps on going."
Lemmon said each groping incident lasts only a "millisecond" and the suspect doesn't say a word.
"Two victims said he looked back at them and kind of sneered. They both felt it was to see what kind of reaction they would have when he grabbed them," he said.
But if the same man is responsible for all the incidents, he faces potential misdemeanor charges for sexual harassment and potential felony charges for breaking into an apartment, Lemmon said.
Until Wednesday's morning attacks, all the previous incidents had occurred at night or in the late afternoon. Most of the attacks occurred near Heritage Halls and Helaman Halls.
Police say they are looking for a white man in his early 20s who is about 5 feet 6 or 7 inches tall, weighs about 150 pounds, is clean-shaven and has spiky blond hair. Although he wears different clothes each time, he has been seen wearing a black hoodie and stone-washed blue jeans, or in another case a black knit hat, gray sweatshirt and white gloves.
Anyone with information is asked to call BYU police at 801-422-2222.
Email: email@example.com Twitter: DNewsCrimeTeam
Copyright 2017, Deseret News Publishing Company