Palo Alto police hope sketch of alleged sexual assault suspect leads to arrest

Palo Alto police hope a sketch will help them track down the suspect in a brazen sexual assault that happened in the middle of the day Sunday.

The attack was reported at the bicycle and pedestrian underpass on California Avenue.

"This is an extremely rare daytime sexual assault," said Lt. Kara Apple.

Police were called just before 3 p.m. by someone who found the injured victim screaming for help. The victim, a woman in her 50s, told officers she was walking her bike eastbound through the tunnel when she was attacked.

"Another cyclist, a male walked right past her in the opposite direction. So she was able to see his face," said Apple. "The next thing she knew she was struck from behind and knocked down to the ground and was sexually assaulted."

The woman told police the suspect took her cell phone. The phone was found a few blocks away on Emerson Street and will be processed for evidence. The victim was taken to the hospital with a cut on the back of her head and bruising on her neck.

"It’s kind of scary. It’s nothing we would have expected," said one longtime resident.

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People who live in the area were shocked. They said the underpass is very well traveled. It connects the business district near the train station to a residential neighborhood.

"Several people are calling for cameras under there. And they have for some time. And I’m certainly hopeful that happens now," said one resident.

"I never heard of anything like that going on before," said resident William Bennett. "I use this path, well it used to be daily."

The suspect is described as a man between the age of 30 and 40, 5 feet 5 inches tall with a stocky build. Police are canvassing the area for surveillance video.

"Palo Alto is a safe area. That tunnel is very safe as well," said Apple. "And we want to track down this suspect so we can put the community’s fears at rest and know they can go in there comfortably and safely and use this tunnel."