By Allie Smyth
A man suspected of committing sexual offences on city campuses is still at large.
Update: Police arrested a suspect, David Ralph Gould, on Oct. 28. City of Calgary press release
Since June there have been five reports of sexual assault, occurring during the daytime and targeting Asian women of Japanese descent. Of the five known victims so far, all are students attending Mount Royal College and the University of Calgary. The suspect’s approach is friendly and aimed at building the trust of the potential victim.
"He intitiates conversation to put victims at ease by speaking [a minimum amount] of Japanese and expressing familiarity of Japanese places," said Detective Rene Lafreniere of Calgary Police Services. "Once he gains their confidence he invites them to go with him to talk or have coffee."
The suspect was recently spotted on the MRC City Centre Campus.
"The suspect was [seen by a previous victim] on October 9th and was confronted by MRC Security," said Bob King, Manager of Security and Public Safety at MRC. "The suspect fled and was subsequently chased by the Calgary city police."
"The suspect was chased for a lengthy period of time [by MRC Security and two male students]," said Lafreniere. "He entered a cab at 7th Street and 7th Avenue but was pulled out of the taxi by one of the students who told the driver that he was wanted for an assault. He was further chased past Cowboys and climbed over an 8-foot chain link fence, rolled under a train, and over another fence. He was last seen heading southbound towards 10th Avenue and 5th Street SW."
There is potential that the suspect will attack again. Individuals attending the U of C, MRC and other academic institutions in Calgary should be aware.
"I am very concerned that this guy will re-offend," said King. "We need people to be aware, to take prudent steps to ensure their safety."
"In my opinion, he is a predator who is looking for his next victim. He’s not going to stop until he is caught," said Lafreniere. "He is becoming more aggressive, there is no doubt about that."
U of C Campus Security Manager Lanny Fritz said security officers were aware of the increased risk and are working diligently to fulfil their public safety mandate.
"Our community can’t help but be vulnerable to criminals that decide to target the university" said Fritz. "We are concerned. It doesn’t get much worse than this."
Fritz warned women to be cautious when approached by someone unknown to them.
"Be suspicious of [someone] that tries to entice you into conversation, especially with your first language," he advised. "No lone female should approach a vehicle or be within a close enough proximity to be grabbed."
Glynn Hunter, Director of the U of C International Student Centre, explained that most International Students have shared the experience of being helped and are eager to return the favour and meet Canadians during their stay here. In this situation it appears that the suspect understands the complexity of the Japanese culture and is prepared to exploit that cultural difference. Hunter suggested that students are going to have to be less concerned with appearing rude when interacting with people they don’t know in order to assure their safety.
"International students need to trust their instincts and be more careful," he said. "If approached, say ‘I’m sorry, I can’t help you’ and leave quickly."
The CPS seeks public help and encourages anyone with information or concerns to contact Lafreniere directly at 288-5689 or Crime Stoppers at 262-8477.
The suspect is described as a caucasian male in his late 30s or early 40s and of an average build with round facial features. He is between 5’7" and 5’9" in height, clean shaven with a smooth complexion and brown hair with a receding hairline. He has a noticeable gap between his teeth and displays a minor understanding of the Japanese language. The suspect vehicle is a dark-coloured open-box pickup truck with an extended cab.
"What’s going to identify this guy is his talking to his friends about his obsession with Asian women," said Lafreniere. "Someone knows him and will report him."
The Safewalk Program at the University of Calgary provides escorts 24 hours a day to any campus location and can be reached by calling 220-5333.