Surveillance video released in UF sexual battery investigation

Surveillance video released in UF students' sexual battery investigation

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. (WOGX FOX 51) -

The Gainesville Police Department has released new surveillance video of a suspect in a sexual battery case. They are hoping the public can help identify who he is.

Investigators think the suspect sexually battered a woman on Monday, April 15. Although the suspect's face is difficult to see in the video, Gainesville Police spokesman Officer Ben Tobias says, "Maybe his movement, or his gait, can be recognized by somebody that lives in the area that knows this person, and can identify him just through his movements."

Police say the suspect broke into a home off SW 10th Street, sexually battered a University of Florida student, then took off with items from her home.

"Very skinny build, and also the victim described him as a hipster style, and maybe something that can stick out in someone's memory," Tobias said.

Students in Gainesville are taking self-defense classes after three such incidents have occurred. 

"I felt devastated for the victims, I think this is the main reason why I took martial arts not to be a victim," said student Searlett Eronno.

In January, detectives say a woman was sexually assaulted in a park at the north end of the city while playing racketball. The video released Thursday comes from an apartment complex near the sexual assault that happened April 15.

And on April 23, investigators said a man attacked a student at the Campus Lodge Apartments, but the victim fought back, kicking her assailant in the groin before escaping. They are calling that case an attempted kidnapping.

Investigators said it is difficult to know whether the crimes are connected, because they happened 6 to 8 miles apart, within the city limits, but they won't rule it out.

"There's enough of an MO [modus operandi] that they can be connected," said Tobias, "but it's going to be quite a jump to do that."

Officers have increased patrols and are taking other steps as well.  

"We do have officers that you may not necessarily see, but they're out there watching and trying to find [the suspect]," Tobias added.

Meanwhile, students are encouraged to be vigilant, something echoed by student Julie Emminger.

"Try to be aware of my surrounding and hopefully my training here will help," she said.

Anyone with information is asked to call the Gainesville Police Department at 352-393-7670. You can also call the anonymous tip line at 352-393-7700.

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