BELLINGHAM - Twice in one week, female students of Western Washington University were grabbed by a man while they walked alone near or on campus.
Police have their doubts that the two assaults involve the same suspect, however, because the first man - described as about 6 feet tall - would be about 4 inches taller than the suspect in the latest assault at 9:20 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 28.
"But you never know," said Western Washington University Police Chief Randy Stegmeier. "(Different) victims can have different views."
Both times the culprit grabbed a female student by the arm as she walked in the dark.
First, a tallish slender white man in the Fairhaven College courtyard asked a woman for directions at 6:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 22. He tried to pull her into the woods, but she broke free. Three hours later she reported the incident, saying the man wore a dark baggy hoodie and jeans. He appeared to be in his teens or early 20s.
On Thursday, Feb. 28, a shorter college-age white man of average build emerged from some bushes in the 400 block of North Garden Street and grabbed a woman by the wrist, according to police. He might have said something to her, but the woman didn't hear him clearly. She punched him in the face, and he ran in the direction of downtown, police said.
She didn't seem to get a great look at him, Stegmeier said, but she recalled he wore dark sweat pants and a grayish, long-sleeved shirt. He appeared to be about 5-foot-8.
Police hadn't named any suspects as of Friday. Anyone with tips should call University Police at 360-650-3555 or Bellingham Police Detective Pauline Renick at 360-778-8754.
Stegmeier reminded students they can call the school's "Greencoats" at 360-650-3555 if they would like an escort to their dorm or car.
For the full text of alerts sent out by WWU, visit the Bellingham Heralds Dispatcher blog.
Late Thursday, WWU sent out an alert within an hour of the incident. To sign up for alerts, click here and fill out the form.
The university also tweets emergency info. You can follow @WWU on Twitter.