Police hunt for clues in girl's abduction
Gunn student still hospitalized Thursday
Palo Alto and Sunnyvale police are still seeking witnesses in the abduction, brutal beating and sexual assault of a 17-year-old Gunn High School student that began about 3:10 p.m. Tuesday.
Palo Alto police also are closely examining a surveillance videocamera tape from a nearby building to see if it contains and clues that could help identify the assailant or his vehicle.
Contrary to initial police reports that the girl was walking along Arastradero Road when attacked from behind, the girl was actually locking up her bicycle in the rear of the building where she lives, in the 500 block of Arastradero Road, Tuesday, according to police Agent Dan Ryan.
The assailant grabbed her from behind, pushed her to the ground and slammed her head into the concrete at least two times, Ryan said Thursday. The girl may have been knocked unconscious part of that time, Ryan said.
Initial reports said she was walking on in the 500 block of Arastradero when she was attacked, prompting Gunn High School Principal Noreen Likens to issue a warning to students to not walk home alone but to do so in groups.
After the girl was pushed to the ground and beaten, her abductor forced her to a car, drove to an unknown location and sexually assaulted her, police reported. About an hour later, she was able to escape from the car while it was stopped in traffic in the 500 block of North Fair Oaks Avenue in Sunnyvale when the girl jumped out of the car and started running and screaming for help. A passing motorist helped her as her abductor drove off.
"She saw an opportunity," Ryan said.
The girl remained hospitalized Thursday with facial lacerations. Ryan said a plastic surgeon was called in to consult but there are apparently no fractures.
Police in Palo Alto and Sunnyvale worked through the night Tuesday and fanned out Wednesday afternoon looking for witnesses both on Arastradero Road in Palo Alto and on North Fair Oaks Avenue in Sunnyvale, especially seeking information about the car.
Palo Alto police have offered a $5,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the assailant.
The man is described by police as black, 25-30 years old, 6 feet tall, "a little heavy," with black hair, dark eyes, no facial hair and with a medium complexion with no blemishes. There were no visible tattoos or pierced jewelry. He was wearing a blue baseball cap and a blue hooded jacket with yellow lettering on the front.
Anyone with information about the man or the abduction is asked to call the Palo Alto police tip line at 650-329-2190.
Ryan said calls have been coming into the tip line.
"We're sorting through them now," he said Thursday.
In addition, detectives are closely examining a tape from a security camera on a nearby building on Arastradero Road, hoping the tape may give them a glimpse of the man or his car.
Searching for the car is a priority because the girl was not able to give police much information due to being disoriented, Ryan said. She was able to identify an inside door handle, he said.
Sunnyvale public safety officers are seeking witnesses who may have seen the girl jump out of the car and scream for help.
"It was an hour or more of hell" for the girl, Ryan said Tuesday night in the initial report of the abduction.
The Palo Alto Unified School District sent all schools information about the incident using the Parent-Teacher-Student Association (PTSA) e-news system, Assistant Superintendent Scott Laurence said. School administrators urged students to be aware and take precautions. Police on Wednesday handed out flyers to passing motorists in the area of Arastradero and El Camino.
"One always knows about these things but when it hits you the doorstep it's quite devastating," Likens said.
Staff Writer Arden Pennell and Weekly Editor Jay Thorwaldson contributed to this story. Senior Staff Writer Don Kazak can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.