GRAND RAPIDS, MI — Kati Rogers and Liza Flewelling are no strangers to roads and paths that weave around the Aquinas College campus off East Fulton Street.
As seniors, the two have traveled them many times. They didn’t mind passing through the intersection of E. Fulton Street near Lowell Avenue during a Monday afternoon run, despite two reports of sexual assaults—one on a college student— over the weekend in that area.
“We are by a city, we’re not far from it, so you always have to be aware of things like that,” said Rogers, standing outside the school’s fitness center.
On the building’s doors were a flurry of bright orange pages, notifying students of the crime reports.
They were posted just before many freshman were to begin their first day of college classes.
Meg Derrer, the college’s associate vice president of marketing and communications, noted state law that requires colleges to post information when crimes are committed.
But still, she said, it was important incoming students know of escort services and other resources they may take advantage of. The college offers escort rides to students traveling to and from many locations within a one-mile radius of campus—from dusk until dawn, every day of the year.
Police are continuing to search for a man suspected in two sexual assaults near the college campus early Saturday.
Around 2:20 a.m., a 21-year-old woman walking near the intersection of East Fulton Street and Lowell Avenue NE said she was attacked and sexually assaulted. The attacker was not known to her, she told police.
About half an hour later, a 47-year-old woman walking in the area said she was accosted by a person with a similar description: a black man, 25-35 years old, 5’7” to 5’10,” with a stocky, muscular build.
The man reportedly had hair shaved short in a fade haircut and was wearing khaki shorts and a multi-colored, horizontally striped shirt.
Grand Rapids Lt. Mark Ostapowicz today said the 21-year-old was a college student.
Detectives are still investigating details of the two attacks.
“It didn’t sound like the man was hiding, but the younger woman didn’t know where he came from,” Ostapowicz said.
The older woman managed to flail her arms and fight back enough to ward off the attacker and get away.
Rogers said she often travels through the area in question during mid-afternoon runs, but makes sure she is walking with someone else at night—more as a way to exercise caution than because of any worry.
She advised that incoming freshman do the same.
Elizabeth Erickson, also an Aquinas senior, frequently rides her bike and walks from a job at the Family Fare on East Fulton, just a few block from campus.
She doesn’t have a car to drive home after dusk, but uses the bike as a way to travel home quickly. Other times, she’ll call the campus escort service for rides around campus.
It’s easy for new students to downplay warnings of family and college staff to walk in groups, Erickson said, but those warnings can’t be taken lightly.
“Your parents aren’t kidding,” she said.
Police are asking anyone with further information about this weekend’s reported assaults to call the Grand Rapids Police Department at 456-3604 or Silent Observer at 774-2345.