Police urging caution after 2 bridge attacks

May 25, 1994|By Ed Heard | Ed Heard,Sun Staff Writer

Howard County police are increasing patrols and urging residents to avoid isolated pathways at night and to travel in pairs when they use Columbia's neighborhood paths, after two assaults on a popular Columbia pedestrian bridge in the past week.

"People need to exercise more caution if they're going to be traveling there alone, especially after dark," said county police spokesman Sgt. Steven Keller.

In the most recent attack, a 24-year-old Wilde Lake man told police he was beaten unconscious and robbed by two youths after he encountered a group of 10 teen-agers crossing the foot bridge near the county's central library around 11:30 Saturday night.

Police said Robert Andrew Warren was attacked about 11:30 p.m. as he walked east on the foot pedestrian bridge that spans U.S. 29 and connects Town Center to Oakland Mills. The victim received only minor injuries in the incident and did not need medical treatment, police said.

Last week, a 35-year-old Columbia woman was pushed off the end of the bridge into woods, where a man allegedly punched her and began ripping her clothes off. Two children on bikes scared the attacker away.

The woman suffered a fractured nose in the 4:30 p.m. attack.

The assaults do not appear to be related, but "any time we have a series of incidents in the same area, we'll look more closely at it," Sergeant Keller said.

The area is isolated and not easily accessible to patrol cars. Officers will have to park in a lot in nearby Stevens Forest in Oakland Mills or at the library in the west side, then walk about a quarter-mile to the bridge, he said.

For the past year, county police have been working to organize bike patrols to provide more mobility for officers, Sergeant Keller said.

"Unfortunately, this happens occasionally in warmer months, but there's not a pattern," said Pam Mack, vice president of community relations for the Columbia Association.

Ms. Mack said the bridge, which is county property, borders open land maintained by the nonprofit association that manages Columbia.

In Saturday's incident, Mr. Warren told police he was walking to a bar in the Oakland Mills Village Center when he passed a group of 10 teen-age boys and girls who were walking toward Town Center. Mr. Warren told police he began running when he heard someone say, "Let's get him."

Two youths from the group chased and caught Mr. Warren, who said he has asthma, police said. Mr. Warren told police he was punched in the face and hit with a stick before he passed out.

When he awoke minutes later, he said he found $25 missing from his jacket pocket. He walked to the bar and called police about 12:30 a.m. Sunday.

"People need to exercise more caution if they're going to be traveling there alone, especially after dark," Sergeant Keller said.

The two youths were described as black and in their late teens, one standing 6 feet 3 inches tall, weighing 200 pounds. The second suspect was said to be 5 feet 11 inches tall, weighing 160 pounds and had a thin build.

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