A suspect was arrested for the frightening attack on a real estate outside an Encino home, Los Angeles police said Wednesday, and indicated he is also under investigation for sexual battery of multiple other women.
The arrested man has an intellectual disability, his family said.
After video came to light of an open house visitor shoving a female real estate agent to the ground Sunday and then groping her, two other real estate agents indicated they recognize the man in the video as someone who had groped them while they were holding earlier open houses in Encino.
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The suspect was identified by police as Alen Karaboghosian, 45, who lives with his parents in Encino. After the investigation focused on him, police began surveillance of the family's Lindley Avenue home. When family membeers drove off Tuesday evening, officers pulled over the vehicle a few blocks away, and arrested Karaboghosian, according to LAPD Det. Wes Cooper.
Karaboghosian's parents said after learning of the Sunday incident, they were driving to a police station. They disputed the notion that he intended to harm the woman. Calling him "kind-hearted," a sister in law said Karaboghosian's intellectual disability had been diagnosed at an early age, and sometimes affects his interactions with people. The family said when the agent told him to leave the open house and threatened to call police, it frightened him, and triggered his response. His father said when his son bent over the woman after he had pushed her to the ground, it was to help her, but her yelling scared him away.
The woman said he briefly put his hands on her upper body before running off.
Karaboghosian was booked for assault with a deadly weapon, described as his bodily force. His family indicated it is attempting to post the $130,000 required for him to be released on bail.
A decision on filing formal charges has yet to be made by the Los Angeles District Attorney's office. Intellectual disability can be basis for a defense of diminished capacity, also called diminished actuality.
Detectives believe there are likely more victims, all of whom are women but not necessarily real estate agents, according to Det. Cooper.
Wednesday, not far from where Karaboghosian was arrested, a woman said her friend was walking on the sidewalk a week ago Saturday when she was grabbed from behind by a bicycle riding man she now recognizes as Karaboghosian.
"Same shoes, same hat, same face," said Limor Rotholz, whose friend--who asked not to be identified--is an expectant mother within a month of her due date.
"I don't care what mental issues he has. He knew exactly what he was doing," Rotholz said.
Security camera video provided a clear view of the attacker in Sunday's assault. The man took off his baseball cap and twice looked over his shoulder directly at the camera above an entrance.
The victim in Sunday's attack told NBC4 that she had been able to sleep hardly at all until getting word of the arrest.
"I was relieved because I know he is locked up," she said. "I was able to get a couple of hours of sleep."
The other reported open house incidents occurred in June and February, according to the agents, who both said they intended to meet with police. The woman victimized in June said she felt compelled to come forward after she saw the video from the Sunday incident, and realized neither was an isolated incident.
"When the guy took his hat off, I immediately recognized him," said the agent, who like Sunday's victim, wished to remain anonymous. "I was shocked he was so violent."
She said her encounter occurred on the Saturday before Father's Day, at a house only a few blocks from the location of the Sunday attack. She recalled him talking about being a cabinet maker. (His sister in law said he often spends time in his brother's cabinet shop). But when he began asking personal questions, she became concerned enough to move toward the front door and encourage him to leave.
"That's when he tried to hug me."
As she pushed him away, he grabbed her breast, then ran off, she said.
She made a point of having a colleague accompany her the following week when she returned for another open house. She was stunned to spot the man riding a bicycle past the house repeatedly. She went outside and recorded video of him, but thought it not clear enough for investigators to use to identify him.
Tuesday, one brokerage, Keller Williams Porter Ranch, brought in a self defense expert for its staff meeting, and devoted the entire session to precautions agents can take. Afterwards, many purchased stun guns and pepper spray dispensers from a company called Damsel in Defense.
"Back off!" growled instructor Kathy Card as she triggered a loud "zap" from a stun gun as she demonstrated one technique for putting a would-be attacker off balance long enough to get away.
Also offering suggestions was office CEO and team leader Frank Bernardo, himself an MP while in the Army, and later a police officer before he began pursuing his real estate career. Bernardo encouraged agents to use the "buddy system" for open houses whenever possible, to direct visitors on a house tour rather than leading them, and above all to follow their instincts when something does not seem right.
In stressing the importance of situational awareness, he noted that applies to everyone, not only real estate agents.
"They shouldn't feel afraid to do their jobs, to have their career," he said.
NBC4's Jonathan Lloyd contributed to this report.