Gainesville police investigate attempted sexual battery near UF

FOX 35 News at 6 p.m.

- Gainesville Police said a man tried to sexually batter a 21-year-old female University of Florida student in the stairwell at an apartment complex. The suspect got away, and neighbors are on edge.

Pablo Torres, 20, said his close friend is the woman who was attacked.  "She's held up pretty well. She's been talking to officials,” Torres said. “She's been trying to cope with the situation."  Torres claims friends chased the suspect away and he tried to help her.  "We saw him once. That's when he ran,” Torres explained. “That's when my roommate originally pulled up and saw him."

Gainesville police said the student left a bar and was walking to the apartment around 1:30 a.m. Tuesday when the suspect forced her to the ground and threatened to shoot her if she screamed. No gun was found, and the suspect tried to fondle her say police, but was spooked by a passing car. Police said over 12 hours passed before they were notified.

Ben Tobias with Gainesville police said, "We understand the delay their reporting for many different reasons. But, given the severity of the allegations we really wish we had the information right away."  Police canvassed the area Wednesday morning and are stepping up patrols and searching for evidence.

Gainesville police detectives said this is not related to sexual attacks on and near campus late last year.  Still, it has women, like neighbor and fellow UF student Annetta Aronova, on edge. "I'll never walk alone now.”  Aronova  said “I'm like, scared for my life at this point."   Rachel Newsome, a UF graduate student who also lives nearby, said, "It's definitely scary. A lot of women walk alone around here."  

To the alleged suspect, Pablo said, "I hope and you better pray that we never run into each other or any of the victims of this heinous act."

Police describe the suspect as light-skinned black or Hispanic man, roughly 21-22 years old. Police said the suspect may be between 5 feet, 8 inches to 6 feet tall, with a medium build and wearing a white tee shirt and blue jeans.   If you have any information about this incident, call the Gainesville Police  detective division at 352-393-7670 or text keyword GPDFL, plus your tip, to 274-637.

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