Bellingham Police arrested a man Thursday they suspect assaulted one woman and stalked another during the past two weeks in the Birchwood Neighborhood, according to a press release.
Detectives spoke to Paul Carrillo-Tomas about both incidents on Wednesday and Thursday, according to the release, and booked him into Whatcom County Jail Thursday on suspicion of second-degree assault and stalking.
At approximately 11:25 p.m. July 8, officers responded to a call from a woman who said she had been assaulted by a stranger as she was walking home. The 29-year-old woman told police she was walking home from a store when she was grabbed from behind as she passed a grassy area in the 2600 block of Birchwood.
She told police she was grabbed in a bear hug by a man who told her not to say anything. She described the man as having either a Middle Eastern or Spanish accent.
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The woman screamed and fought, according to the release, but ultimately ended up on the ground where the man used both hands to strangle her. She reported losing consciousness for a short period of time, before continuing to scream for help and fight off her attacker.
According to the release, a witness was driving home at about 11:30 p.m. and reported seeing a man following about 10 feet behind a woman in a location nearly the grassy area where the attack occurred. The witness described the man and his clothing to police and told them they thought the manner in which the man was following the woman was strange. The witness also said as they were getting out of their car at home a few blocks away, they heard a woman scream.
Detectives assigned to the case believed the assault might be related to an incident that occurred at about 11:25 p.m. on July 1.
In that incident, officers responded to a report of a suspicious man following a woman near the 3300 block of Northwest Avenue. A 25-year-old woman reported a younger Hispanic man ran toward her as she was on a walk and tried to engage her in conversation, but that she could not understand him because he mumbled and had a strong accent.
The woman reportedly told the man to leave her alone and continued on her route, but the man followed her for about 30 feet, before she again told him to quit following her.
The man got into a champagne-colored sedan and drove north on Northwest Avenue — the same direction the woman was walking, according to the release. The man allegedly slowed the car when he got beside the woman and watched her walk.
The woman told police she saw the man pull into a bank parking lot just north of the Northside Restaurant and park, before he got out of the car and ran toward her. The woman yelled “stop!” as he got close to her, and she continued to yell.
A male witness was at a bike repair station next to the bank and reportedly stepped in and asked the woman if the man was bothering her, to which she responded, “yes.” The man reportedly ran back to his car, where he was confronted by the witness, who told the woman to leave. The woman continued north on Northwest and called 911.
While the woman was on the phone with emergency dispatchers, the man allegedly drove by, and the woman was in such fear she ducked into a fire station alcove to await police.
According to the release, when officers arrived, the woman saw a man walking toward her, but he dove into bushes next to the sidewalk when he realized she was with the police.
Police said they found Carrillo-Tomas in the bushes, and the woman identified him as the man who had been following her. Carrillo-Tomas denied that he had been following the woman and that he dove into the bushed when he saw police for fear that he would be deported, according to the press release.
Police are trying to identify the witness who helped the woman July 1. Anyone with information about either incident is asked to contact Detective Howell at 360-778-8682.