Bellingham Police now say a composite sketch of a man initially suspected in recent lewd conduct cases around Western Washington University is “no longer valid” because he was arrested in connection with unrelated crimes.
“The sketch is no longer valid as it relates to the prolific voyeur,” said police Lt. Danette Beckley.
On Nov. 7, police arrested Owen Dean Allen, 21, on charges of first-degree robbery, felony harassment and third-degree malicious mischief stemming from an incident where he attacked a man and stole his hat, according to authorities.
Allen is a transient and came to the area from another state.
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Police first believed Allen matched the composite sketch of the person suspected in more than 20 incidents of voyeurism and lewd conduct over the past several months. While Allen did match the composite sketch, detectives later determined that the sketch was not of the voyeur, but of the strong-arm robbery suspect from early November.
Beckley said she couldn’t disclose why police initially thought Allen might be connected to the voyeurism cases.
Beckley said the confusion arose during an assault Halloween afternoon. A witness familiar with the area who was walking in the 800 block of North Garden said he saw Allen on the porch of a house and noticed odd behavior. Allen approached the man and allegedly assaulted him. A woman nearby who saw the incident and was aware of the voyeurism occurrences yelled that she was going to call police, and Allen fled.
Three days later, Allen assaulted a man walking toward him, stole his hat, made threats to kill the man and fled, authorities said.
Police said Allen’s clothing and appearance matched the description given by witnesses from both events, as well as resembled the sketch.
Allen allegedly admitted to investigators that he was in the area, but denied assaulting anyone.
Meanwhile, police did not respond to questions about whether several similar voyeurism incidents near Western from 2015 are related to the current cases.
Police have investigated 20 or more complaints of voyeurism or indecent exposure in the last few months, most recently Nov. 9 and Nov. 6. A man also grabbed a woman’s breasts last week, but police are unsure if it’s related to the other cases.
Most of the incidents, similar to those over Halloween weekend, have happened around Western. The occurrences have been happening almost weekly, and the numerous incidents have been concentrated near Western, and the Columbia, York and Sehome neighborhoods. Police are still unsure if five cases from early 2017 are connected.
Some of the cases show similarities, such as the suspect exposing himself or masturbating in a public place. In other instances, the suspect attracted the attention of people inside a home and exposed himself near a door or window.
In all cases, the suspect was a white man in his 20s, but he’s always gone before police arrive.
Voyeurism or indecent exposure reports are not uncommon, said police Sgt. Claudia Murphy, who supervises the Family Crimes Unit. Every summer there’s usually a naked man in a park or on a popular trail. But the recent string of occurrences is notable, due to the sheer number of them, she said.