Are 2 sex assaults near GVSU campus connected?

Grand Valley State University Allendale campus sign
Flowers border the sign for Grand Valley State University's Allendale campus. (Aug. 29, 2016)


ALLENDALE TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — The Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office is trying to determine if two sexual assaults that happened near Grand Valley State University’s Allendale campus are connected.

Sheriff’s office Capt. Mark Bennett would not go into detail about the assaults, but said they happened in the same way. Neither victim knew the attacker, who seemed to be on foot, but they provided a similar description.

“It’s certainly possible it’s the same person and we are working through that,” Bennett said.

According to a GVSU alert sent out to students, the first victim was walking by the Burger King at 48th Avenue and Lake Michigan Drive around 11:50 p.m. Friday when she was approached by a man who allegedly assaulted the victim on the side of the road.

The second reported assault, according to another alert, happened about two hours later in the parking lot of the Campus View apartments on 42nd Avenue, across the street from GVSU’s campus. The alleged victim told the sheriff’s office that a stranger approached from behind as she got something out of the back seat, committed the sexual assault and then left.

Each attack lasted about a minute.

“Kind of a surprise-type situation where the victim is surprised by her assailant and then a very short time frame of the assault and the suspect then runs away,” Bennett said.

Surveillance cameras in the area may have captured the attacker or attackers running away. The victims are being interviewed by police for additional clues.

The assailant in the first incident was previously described as 6-foot-2 with dark hair and tan skin. He was wearing basketball shorts and a backward baseball cap.

Anyone with information is asked to call the sheriff’s office at 616.738.4022 or Silent Observer at 877.887.4536.

GVSU sent an email to students Monday night saying it sent out alerts after the assaults happened although it is not a legal requirement when an incident occurs off campus.

“GVSU takes sexual assault very seriously and we are continuously looking for ways to educate and protect our students, faculty and staff. That is one of the reasons we put the alerts out to warn our community about any danger or threats to public safety.  It is not a legal requirement when an incident occurs off campus, but we believe it is the right thing to do to inform and help protect our campus community. Creating a safe and secure environment is our focus,” the email read in part.

The university also reminded students and staff about its security app called Rave Guardian, as well as their SafeWalk services.

“That’s scary to thinking about that happening so close,” said GVSU junior Madison Spratt, who lives and walks in the area where the first incident reportedly happened. “There’s cars driving past here constantly. I would have just thought that someone would have seen or heard something.”

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