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Caution urged after UC Irvine attack

Police have no suspect in sexual assault near residence hall.

October 02, 2008|Tony Barboza | Times Staff Writer

UC Irvine students were urged Wednesday to be on alert after the first sexual assault by a stranger on the campus in eight years was reported Sunday, police said.

A man approached a female student from behind outside the Mesa Court residence hall complex about 1:30 a.m., threatened her with a sharp object and sexually assaulted her near Parking Lot 5, near University and Campus drives, UC Irvine police said.

Authorities said they had a limited description of the suspect because the victim did not see his face. But he was said to be about 5 feet 8, 170 to 180 pounds and wearing dark blue denim jeans and a shirt. He was last seen fleeing north from the parking lot on foot.

In an alert posted on the university's website and an e-mail sent to all students, campus police urged precautions such as taking advantage of a safety escort program offered by the university or self-defense training.

Until Sunday's incident, the last sexual assault on campus involving a stranger was reported in 2000, said UC Irvine Police Lt. Baltazar De La Riva. Campus police said "stranger assaults" are those in which the victim has had no previous contact with the assailant.

"It's a safe campus, and these types of incidents have been extremely rare," he said. "However, we still have to be aware of our surroundings at all times."

Campus police are investigating whether the attack is connected to similar assaults in Orange County since December 2000, which have been linked to a single suspect by the Sheriff's Department and police in Costa Mesa, Fountain Valley, Huntington Beach, Irvine and Santa Ana.

In most of those attacks, the assailant grabbed or groped the victim after approaching from behind as she entered or left an apartment complex carport or parking lot carrying laundry or groceries.

Campus police have no suspects in Sunday's assault and ask anyone with information to call (949) 824-5223.

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tony.barboza@latimes.com

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