BELLINGHAM - Police put out two sketches Wednesday, March 6, of a young man suspected of trying to abduct a girl and a woman - before spraying both of them in the face - in separate incidents last Friday in Bellingham.
The faces described by victims are noticeably similar. Detectives believe it's the same man: The abduction attempts were reported within a half mile of each other, about 11 hours apart.
In the first case, the stranger ordered a 13-year-old girl to come with him at 8:20 a.m. Friday, while she waited for the school bus in the 700 block of West Bakerview Road, said Bellingham police spokesman Mark Young. She refused. The suspect - a thin white man in his 20s, wearing jeans, a black hoodie and glasses with dark rims - then punched her in the face.
He pulled out a spraybottle and shot the girl in the eyes with an odd substance, according to police. She ran home to tell her parents. By the time officers responded, the man had vanished.
Police believe he surfaced again, however, at 7:10 p.m in the 4100 block of Aldrich Road. A 24-year-old woman told officers a man wearing glasses grabbed her arm from behind as she walked on the sidewalk. She screamed. He told her to come with him. He sprayed her in the face, too, then ran toward West Bakerview, Young said. Police dogs couldn't find him.
Neither victim suffered serious injuries, but detectives still don't know what they were sprayed with. Police, who are familiar with pepper spray, said it didn't act like pepper spray usually does: It stung, but not horribly. It could've been expired, because it didn't sting that much, Young said. But it could have been anything, he added.
Both victims described the suspect as 5-foot-5 to 5-foot-8. He had light-colored facial hair.
Since Friday, police have gotten some "tremendous" leads, Young said. Aside from the sketches, they're not prepared to release much more information to the public. In the meantime Young advised people to walk in groups and carry a cellphone.
Two more women were accosted on or near the campus of Western Washington University in the past two weeks; police are trying to determine if the same suspect is involved in all four cases. Neither college student reported the attacker wore glasses or had facial hair. But police are exploring that angle.
If you see anything suspicious, call 911. Tips can be directed to Detective Jana Bouzek at 360-778-8826.
MAP OF ATTEMPTED ABDUCTION SITES
View Recent attempted abductions in Bellingham in a larger map