Police are beefing up patrols at two adjoining south Charlotte greenways where a woman was attacked by a knife-wielding man who police said tried to sexually assault her.
“Horrible, horrible incident, unacceptable incident, and you better believe that we will move heaven and earth to bring this person into custody,” Charlotte-Mecklenburg police spokesman Rob Tufano said at a news conference at police headquarters on Friday afternoon.
The attack happened at about 6 p.m. Thursday at the entrance to McAlpine Greenway Park, in the 11800 block of Johnston Road, police said.
The assailant came up from behind and pulled the 27-year-old woman to the ground, Lt. Jason Helton of CMPD’s South Division said. The attacker tried to sexually assault the woman before her dog bit the man and he left, Helton said.
The woman had minor injuries, according to Helton, who declined to say if she had been stabbed.
“It was not a robbery, he didn’t ask for any property,” Helton said. “We’re looking at it as a sexual assault against the victim.”
A police helicopter and officers with dogs searched for the attacker, but he has yet to be caught. The attacker is 6 feet tall, bald and about 35 years old, police said. He wore dark clothes.
Police are increasing patrols in neighborhoods in the Johnston Road corridor and have started “around-the-clock” bike patrols in the McAlpine Creek and adjoining Four Mile Creek greenways. CMPD’s blue and white all-terrain vehicle also is patrolling the area, Helton said.
“It is a very brazen attack, and that is why we are throwing so many resources at it,” Helton said. “Our main concern is the safety of the public.
“The main thing is we want the community members to be hyper-vigilant,” Helton said.
He urged people to use the greenways in groups and always carry a cell phone or smartphone. Most phones show police the caller’s location. People also can carry Mace or pepper spray to ward off an attacker, he said.
“The most important thing is the cell phone, to call us,” Helton said. He urged people “to be vigilant and to call 911 if you see something suspicious.”
The only other attack at the greenways happened in 2014, along the same stretch, Helton said. “We’re looking to see if they are tied together, but right now nothing indicates they are linked together.”
In 2016, police identified a suspect in an indecent exposure case at the greenways, but the victim chose not to prosecute, the lieutenant said.
Anyone with information in Thursday’s attack also can call Crime Stoppers at 704-334-1600.
LaVendrick Smith contributed.