Crime & Courts

Police: Teen girl fought off attacker in Charlotte park

A 16-year-old girl fought off a man who jumped from bushes Thursday at McMullen Creek Greenway and tried to assault the teen at knifepoint, police say.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg police said Friday that the girl, who was walking alone on the greenway not far from Pineville-Matthews Road, escaped serious injury.

Police Capt. Jim Wilson said Friday that the incident is a reminder of the need to use caution when in parks or on greenways.

Police said the incident took place shortly before noon at the greenway, one of several hiking, biking and jogging trails which stretch across parts of Mecklenburg County. The girl said she was walking on the trail when a man jumped out and grabbed her from behind.

The attacker tried forcing her back into a wooded area, threatening her with a knife. Police said the girl struggled with the man and managed to break free, then ran off. The girl called 911, and police said they were able to collect evidence at the scene.

The suspect was described as a Hispanic or African-American male, about 25 years old. The man was about 6 feet tall and weighed about 190 pounds. He was wearing a light blue T-shirt and khaki cargo shorts or pants.

Investigators said they believe the attacker was speaking in Spanish.

Wilson said the attack is not something the teen could have expected, adding that there have been few such reports in the area.

“Just think about it,” he said. “All of a sudden, someone jumps out and blind-sides you. It’s not something you’re thinking about.”

Anyone with information in the case is asked to contact Crime Stoppers, 704-334-1600.

Wilson encouraged those who use the trails to follow several safety tips:

• Walk with authority, be alert and scan your surroundings.

• Jog or walk with a known companion.

• Always jog or walk in a familiar area. Avoid heavily wooded, poorly lit or secluded areas.

• Be aware of your surroundings. Avoid wearing devices with earphones, which will prevent you from hearing things around you.

• Wear bright-colored clothing to improve visibility.

• Avoid exercising after dark.

• Vary your route. If you think you’re being followed, go to the nearest residence, open business or group of people and seek help.