Police seeking man suspected in sexual assault near WWU campus

A woman told Bellingham police on Wednesday, Oct. 16, that she had been sexually assaulted sometime in the past five days near Birnam Wood residence hall by a man she knew, according to a release from Western Washington University.

The school said it was notified about the alleged sexual assault, even though neither person was a WWU student, because it occurred in close proximity to the campus.

Both the woman and her alleged attacker are homeless and were staying in the woods near Sehome Arboretum at the time of the assault, the release stated.

WWU police searched the area on Thursday, Oct. 18, but did not find the man or any sign of an encampment, according to the release.

Bellingham police are seeking a man, described as white and approximately 39 years old, the release. Anyone with information about the man or the alleged sexual assault is asked to call police at 911.

Anyone concerned about their safety on campus should call university police at 360-650-3911.

“The safety of students is a top priority at Western Washington University, and as we experience longer hours of darkness, now is the time to review tips to help reduce the risk of crime,” the release said.

To help increase safety, the release suggested:

Walking and parking in well-lit areas.

Walking with a friend or calling a “green coat” safety escort at 360-650-3555.

Reporting safety hazards, such as poor lighting, broken windows or locks, to Public Safety.

Being aware of your surroundings and what to expect.

Letting people know where you are going.

Ensuring your cell phone is fully charged and operational.

Calling for help on an emergency telephone, identified by a blue light.

Using WWU’s Late Night Shuttle (11 p.m. to 3 a.m. Monday through Saturday and 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. Sunday).


If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence or sexual assault, you can contact the following local resources for free, confidential support:

Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault Services: 24-hour Help Line: 360-715-1563, Email:

Lummi Victims of Crime: 360-312-2015.

Bellingham Police: You can call anonymously at 360-778-8611, or go online at

WWU Consultation and Sexual Assault Support Survivor Advocacy Services: 360-650-3700 or

David Rasbach joined The Bellingham Herald in 2005 and now covers breaking news. He has been an editor and writer in several western states since 1994.