Cops: Man tried to sexually assault woman at Columbia Centre

Published: Aug. 17, 2011 at 11:30 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 18, 2011 at 9:43 PM EDT
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Police sketch of the suspect (Source: CPD)
Police sketch of the suspect (Source: CPD)
The Columbiana Centre (Source: Google Maps)
The Columbiana Centre (Source: Google Maps)

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Columbia police are searching for a man accused of trying to sexually assault a female at the Columbiana Centre in Harbison Wednesday morning.
Chief Randy Scott said the woman told investigators a man grabbed her around the face and neck area from behind while she was exiting a public restroom in the mall. The man tried to fondle her underneath her skirt, and the woman said she screamed and fought back using her hands and high heels as weapons.

The woman told police the two fell to the ground during the struggle. The woman kept screaming, and Scott said the suspect ran out of the mall. The victim did not receive serious physical injuries.

Investigators with the Columbia Police Department's Special Victims Unit asked a SLED forensic artist to draw a composite sketch of what the victim says the suspect looks like. CPD Investigators are in the process of determining if any surveillance video captured the attack.

The woman described the suspect as a black man with possibly a beard, between the ages of 25 and 30 years old. He's described as 5'6" tall and weighing approximately 250 pounds. He was possibly wearing a dirty, white T-shirt and dark pants.

Other than this sketch and conversations with other witnesses, investigators have little to go on. "It is our understanding now there's no video on the inside of the mall, so we're looking and trying to talk to some of the business owners to see if there is any surrounding because if the persons or person entered the mall," said Scott. "It could have been possibly captured on another camera."

Reports show the suspect took off running toward the Toys 'R' Us store near the mall.

"I think the mall is safe," commented Scott. "I think this is an isolated incident, but it is a very unfortunate incident."

Scott said the mall employs a private security company and on some days, certain stores employ off-duty CPD officers for safety. However, there were no CPD officers at the mall during the incident, and the security officers were not in the area.
Despite the challenge of trying to solve the crime without surveillance video, Scott is sure his investigators will get the suspect off the streets.

We tried to get a comment from Columbiana Centre Mall officials for this story, but the general manager refused to comment on anything related to the situation.

Chief Scott encouraged citizens with information about the crime to call Crimestoppers at 1-888-CRIME-SC.