Thursday's arrest of a Whitehouse man accused of sneaking up behind and fondling a woman on Rose Rudman Trail left some women who use the recreational trail nervous.
Tyler Police apprehended 19-year-old Jacob Bobbitt shortly after other trail visitors rushed to the screaming woman's aid.
Tyler residents Brandi White and Amy Datwyler, who were walking the trail Friday, said they were unaware of this latest assault.
“We walk together every day,” Ms. White said. “I think as long as we're together we're OK. We don't do it by ourselves. … There are creeps everywhere.”
Runner and busy mom Li-Yu Mitchell, also of Tyler, was caught off guard by news of the attack.
Ms. Mitchell, escorted by her attentive dog, Zoie, said there are certain portions of the trail she avoids, and always keeps a cellphone on hand.
“I never go alone,” she said, also pushing a baby in a stroller. “I always have my dog. That (attack) kind of scares me. I come here during the day, never at dusk.”
According to police records, there have been six incidents in the past nine months, including a person taking improper photography, a couple of people exposing themselves and lewd behavior.
Tyler Police Public Information Officer Don Martin said the latest incident occurred about 1:45 p.m. Thursday and the suspect was quickly captured after witnesses followed him and called police.
“She felt he was acting weird, and he was making her uncomfortable so she made her way to a more populated area,” he said.
As the woman continued, the man suddenly came up behind her and grabbed her, fondling her chest and other parts of her body.
“She screamed and other people in the park ran to find out what was happening. They were able to follow the man and described the pickup he got into,” he said
Martin said the woman and her child were not injured in the ordeal.
He added Bobbitt was arrested in September after fondling a woman in the Walmart parking lot on South Broadway.
Other women said they aren't scared to be on the trail during the day but don't chance it at night. They also avoid secluded areas such as the inner loop north of Shiloh.
“We never come by ourselves,” Jennifer Boies, of Tyler, said. “We walk with each other. … We are aware of our surroundings. We come in the mornings. I feel real comfortable”
Her friend, Suzie Key, of Tyler, said she's never been approached by anyone but recalled feeling uncomfortable upon seeing a scantily dressed man in a gas mask exercising there one day.
Regina Cable, of New Chapel Hill, said she might seek out another place to take her children on a walk.
She usually takes along wasp spray and a baseball bat when she walks at home to protect herself from animals, but on Friday, she had only a cellphone as a safeguard.
“I thought about it (safety plan) yesterday,” she said. “I guess I'll start bringing my bat.”
He offered several simple rules to follow to ensure safety:
Do not run or walk alone at night, and if you must, do so in well-lit areas.
Carry a cellphone and if available Mace or pepper spray on your person.
Be aware of surroundings and park vehicles in well-lit areas.
Check vehicle before entering.
As of Friday afternoon, Bobbitt remained in the Smith County Jail awaiting arraignment.
Relson Gracie Jiu-Jitsu/Lone Star MMA Academy of Tyler is offering ladies self-defense seminars at 1 p.m. on today and Sunday, and organizers say it is free.
Please wear workout pants, comfortable workout top, bare or socked feet on the mats.
The seminars will take place at 3508-B Westway St. To learn more call 903-509-1662.