Palo Alto police seek suspect who groped woman walking down the sidewalk

Palo Alto police released surveillance video Wednesday showing a man wanted in a sexual battery case. Police said he groped a woman while she walked down the sidewalk. It happened last week on University Avenue near Marlowe Street around 9 p.m. 

The victim is a woman in her 20's. She was walking to her home in East Palo Alto. She had gotten off work in downtown when the assault occurred. Neighbors of the quiet street fear the man's behavior could escalate into something worse.

Long-time resident Lisa Taylor said she no longer feels secure living on Marlowe Street. Her neighborhood is described as a quiet suburb with little to no crime.

"I want them to find the creep," said Lisa Taylor of Palo Alto. "It sounds like he was stalking her for quite a ways from Middlefield up here. He waited until it was just after dark, and then he attacked her."

"Incidences like this don't happen very often in the city of Palo Alto," said Sgt. Craig Lee of Palo Alto Police. "It certainly was shocking but more shocking to our victim."

Home surveillance video captured the man in the neighborhood. In the video, the man's car is stopped at the intersection. Police said he had been driving eastbound on University Avenue.  For some unknown reason, he got out with the car still running and the lights on. He then walked to a dark area covered with trees.

Cameras don't show what he did next.

"He ran up behind a female victim who was walking along the sidewalk," said Sgt. Lee. "He ran up behind her and grabbed her breasts, buttocks and groin area. Then he ran back to his car and fled."

The suspect is described to be of Hispanic or Polynesian descent, 23 to 30 years old with medium height and build. Police said in the video, he has a distinctive walk. 

Cameras also captured the suspect's car believed to be a 2006 to 2012 white Audi, possibly an A4 or A6. The car has California plates but police were unable to get a good read on the plate number so it's unclear if he's from the area.

Neighbors said they learned about the crime after the victim's husband, who they said was distraught, went door to door the next day distributing fliers.

"It's pretty brazen to do something on University Avenue," said Taylor. "All these cars coming by, 30,000 cars a day."

Police said they have increased patrols in the neighborhood after the attack. They hope the surveillance video will lead to the perpetrator. If anyone recognizes him, they're asked to contact Palo Alto Police at (650) 329-2413.