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Copycat suspected in attacks using bags

- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 9, 2007

Arlington County police say they think a copycat criminal may be attacking women after placing plastic bags over their heads.

A woman was attacked inside her home early Thursday, and police say a second woman was attacked that afternoon.

Police recorded five similar attacks since March.

The suspect in Thursday's attacks mimicked other cases that police have been investigating for several months.

"According to victims, [the suspect] was clearly Hispanic, while the other ones were described as black males," said an Arlington County police spokesperson.

The most recent incident occurred in Rosslyn Thursday at about 1:20 a.m., when a woman heard a knock on the door shortly after arriving home, police said. When she opened the door, a man forced his way inside and tried to place a plastic bag over her head. The woman fought off the attacker and then called 911.

Police responded to the call by setting up a perimeter around the 2600 block of Lee Highway and stopped a man meeting the suspect's description later that morning.

Police interviewed and released the man but have not ruled him out as a suspect.

At about 3:30 p.m. Thursday, a woman walking a path between Gunston Middle School and Oakridge Elementary fought off a man who came out of the woods and tried to pull a plastic bag over her head, police said.

That incident happened earlier in the day than the previous cases and occurred outside of Arlington's Ballston-Rosslyn area, where the previous assaults took place.

Police said they do not have a motive in either assault.

Three other women since March have reported similar incidents in which they fought off an attacker who assaulted them from behind.

In two of the three incidents, a man tried to pull a plastic bag over the victim's head.

Police describe the suspect in those incidents as a black male, clean shaven, 20 to 35 years old, about six feet tall with a light-to-medium complexion and medium build.

Officers handed out composite sketches of the suspect in the area to raise local awareness and warn residents, particularly women, to be alert as they travel.

Police advise women to walk with a group in well-lit areas and, if attacked, draw attention by calling for help or blowing a whistle.