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BYU arrests man, but not the groper they are looking for

Published March 21, 2014 5:57 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Brigham Young University police say a man they arrested Friday for allegedly breaking into a female student's apartment and sexually assaulting her is not the infamous BYU groper being sought in more than a dozen campus attacks.

The 22-year-old man who was arrested about 1:30 a.m. Friday at Provo's Stadium Terrace Apartments, 950 N. Canyon Road, is black; the suspect in 15 groping cases on or near the campus since January is white, and his contact has generally consisted of quick grabs, usually targeting the women's breasts, as they walk or jog by him.

"We still are running down leads [on the groper case]," BYU police Lt. Arnold Lemmon said. "We've been getting all kinds of phone calls on the case, but right now we have nothing concrete."

The suspect arrested early Friday was sought in connection with a 3 a.m. Tuesday break-in at a BYU female student's apartment.

"He broke in, grabbed the victim and [touched her genitalia] during a brief struggle," Lemmon said. "The girl screamed, her roommate came out and [the suspect] fled on foot."

Video security camera footage helped police identify the suspect, who was booked into the Utah County Jail on suspicion of burglary and sexual assault.

The suspect had recently traveled to Utah from New York and was staying with a friend, who is a student at Utah Valley University, Lemmon said.

Meanwhile, until the outstanding suspect is caught, police are cautioning women to take note of their surroundings and avoid talking on the phone or wearing headphones.

Lemmon said police also have urged students concerned with their safety to take advantage of BYU's Safe Walk program.

"We have offered this for many years," Lemmon said. "A student can call in to our office at 801-422-2222 and request an escort. We either send a [campus] security officer or a police officer to walk them to any location on campus, and if there are extenuating circumstances, even to their front doors."

Normally his office may get half a dozen such requests on a given evening, but since the groping incidents have occurred, those requests have exploded. Lemmon said there were 24 on Thursday night alone.

One of the gropings was captured by a security camera about 7:45 a.m. Wednesday at Heritage Halls. The victim can be seen descending a flight of stairs and stepping onto the sidewalk, where a man in a gray sweatshirt and black pants walks past her and grabs her breast.

"He doesn't even break stride," Lemmon said.

Two hours later, another woman was jogging in a parking lot east of the football stadium when she ran past a man, who grabbed her breast, Lemmon said.

In addition to Wednesday's attacks, gropings have occurred at Helaman Halls, Wymount Terrace, off-campus housing in Provo, and one just outside of the campus police office, Lemmon said. The first was reported Jan. 23. They have occurred as early as 5:20 p.m. and as late as 3 a.m.

The women's descriptions of the assailant vary but are similar enough that they may be referring to the same person, Lemmon said. Some of the women described the perpetrator as a white male who wore workout clothing, including jogging leggings and an Army green running jacket.

In all cases, the attacker was white, in his early 20s and about 150 pounds. His height has been estimated from 5 feet 6 inches to 6 feet.

remims@sltrib.com

Twitter: @remims