Traverse City Record-Eagle

October 1, 2012

Police still on hunt for tunnel assailant


— TRAVERSE CITY — Police continue their search for a man who assaulted a woman as she pushed her young daughter in a stroller.

The incident happened Sept. 1 in the Cass Street pedestrian tunnel under Grandview Parkway in Traverse City. A woman, 31, was pushing her 9-month-old daughter in a stroller when the suspect grabbed her and tried to twist her around.

He apparently was trying to get a few beverage cans from the woman, since he yelled, “I just want your returnables,” before she sprayed him with pepper spray and ran off, police said.

“We continue to investigate leads, and we need to get to the bottom of this,” City Police Capt. Brian Heffner said. “It’s pretty brazen for someone to approach someone else in broad daylight and push them aside to get their cans, especially when they have their infant daughter in a stroller.”

The victim believed the man was homeless, and police for a time believed they knew the suspect’s identity, based on their knowledge of certain homeless residents’ hangouts. But his photo was shown to the woman, and she said it wasn’t him.

Her description of the man wasn’t very specific, so Heffner believes a tip might be necessary.

“Public cooperation is paramount to the closure of this case,” he said. “When you’re given a description of average height, average build ... that describes about 90 percent of the homeless population in Traverse City.”

It takes a while for the effects of pepper spray to wear off, so it’s possible that someone may have noticed a man who appeared to be suffering from the spray in the hours or days after the incident, Heffner said.

Investigators don’t believe the suspect was the man who tried to drag a woman into the woods along the Boardman Lake Trail on Sept. 16. David Michael Walter, the suspect in that case, was arrested and has a preliminary examination set for Oct. 9.

Anyone with information is asked to call the Traverse City Police Department’s detective bureau at (231) 995-5152 or Silent Observer at (231) 947-TIPS.