Angst After Levee Attacks

Uvas trail sees less foot traffic; police continue search for
By Lori Stuenkel

Gilroy – Squirrels scampered beneath rustling leaves near Uvas Creek Tuesday afternoon, but no joggers or bicyclists were in sight.

Whether or not people stayed away from the levee because two women were attacked there Sunday morning could not be determined, but one woman who frequents the path said some are scared.

“It’s a shame,” Linda Pulido said. “You can see the difference: There’s nobody here today.”

Police are continuing to patrol the popular two-mile trail in search of a man suspected of attempting to kidnap and sexually assault two women exercising there about 10am Sunday. The suspect is described as 18 to 25 years old, 5-foot-8 to 6 feet tall, weighing 175 to 190 pounds, with black hair, brown eyes and a “lazy” left eye.

The women reported being attacked in separate incidents that occurred within 10 to 15 minutes of each other, police said. One woman was jogging and attacked near Wren Avenue, and the other was riding a bike and encountered the suspect at the Laurel Drive entrance. Both said the suspect grabbed them and tried to force them into some bushes, but were able to fight him off and flee. Police say both women believed the suspect would have sexually assaulted them if they had not escaped.

No arrests had been made by press time Tuesday. Throughout the day, a marked patrol car was parked at the north entrance to the levee, on Uvas Park Drive at Laurel Drive.

Police distributed more than 700 fliers to homes in the area, including those near the three major entrance points and those with backyard fences facing the DeBell Uvas Creek Park Preserve, Sgt. Kurt Svardal said. The fliers, which included a sketch of the suspect, also were distributed to nearby Gilroy High School and Ascencion Solorsano Middle School.

Pulido, 37, who roller-bladed down the levee Tuesday, said she was in the area a half-hour before Sunday’s attacks occurred.

“I don’t think it should stop anybody from walking out here,” she said. “It should encourage people to come out here more and then there will be lots of people around.”

A martial arts instructor, Pulido said she stays alert while she uses the trail three to four times each week by looking in the bushes, making eye contact and being aware of people around her. She encouraged women to get self-defense training or exercise in groups rather than avoid the trail.

Another woman, who is blind, said she will stay away for a while. Gayle Roseman lives on Laurel Drive near the levee entrance and often walks there by herself with the aid of her walking stick.

“I love walking on the levee. It’s so nice and peaceful,” Roseman said. “There’s usually lots of families walking or riding their bikes. It’s just a beautiful area.

“I’ve lived here for 28 years, and I’ve never heard of anybody grabbing anyone. That’s brazen of that person, because usually weekends are busier than weekdays.”

Eleven-year-old Amanda walked home alone from Solorsano about 3pm, wheeling a backpack behind her. She said she carries a cell phone for emergencies, but generally tries to ignore people she encounters on the levee.

Amanda said she walks from school, rather than ride the bus, because she gets to cheerleading practice sooner.

“I think I’ll probably take the bus now,” she said.

Anyone with information about this case may contact Gilroy police at 846-0350.