In an apparently random assault, an attacker pulled a woman by her hair, placed a cloth over her face and ripped at her clothing near a San Fernando Valley drug store.
"So far, this is the only such attack we're aware of," said Lt. Paul Vernon, commanding officer of the Mission Detective Division. "This type of stranger attack is very rare, but represents a real danger. We want to find this guy right away."
Police are asking for the public’s help to find the assailant, described as a Hispanic male in his early 30s who speaks both English and Spanish, stand about 5 feet 10 inches tall and has a thin build.
The attack happened about 7 p.m. Feb. 12 near a CVS in Panorama City, authorities said Thursday.
That evening, a 36-year-old woman drove to the drug store. When she noticed the parking lot was full, she parked her car on the street near Van Nuys Boulevard and Titus Street (map).
Walking toward the store, police said the victim thought the parking spot was too dark and secluded so she went back to her car to move it to a safer spot.
That’s when a man pulled her hair from behind and placed a cloth over her face, police said. She fought back as the man ripped at her clothing. She screamed and kicked at the attacker, who ran away.
Police said the woman did not tell anyone about what happened for several days because she felt “scared and ashamed.”
"The feeling of shame is common for victims, but as a police officer I would tell her to be proud of defending herself," Vernon said. "She did everything right. Listening to that voice in her head that said 'something is not right' prepared her to defend herself and made her a survivor. It could have been much worse. Her actions were the first steps to catching this predator."
Investigators are searching for any surveillance footage from nearby businesses that may have captured the attacker. They are also searching parolee rolls for anyone who fits the behavior or composite.
Anyone with information is urged to call Detective Marc Madero at 818-838-9969. Anonymous tips can be reported to Crimestoppers at 800-222-TIPS (8477), by texting 274637 (C-R-I-M-E-S on most keypads), or using www.LAPDOnline.org.