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March 28 assault could be groper’s 24th

by Gregg MacDonald

Staff Writer

Fairfax County Police have released a video they say might have captured an image of the serial Springfield groper.

The video was taken on a Kingstowne Shopping Center surveillance camera March 28, the day police say the groper may have assaulted his 24th victim.

At 3 p.m. that day, a 31-year-old woman was shopping in the Home Goods store in the center, when she felt a man grab her from behind and then flee, according to police.

The incident is suspected by police to perhaps be the Springfield groper’s 24th assault in six months.

The groper has so far committed only “simple assaults” that are legally classified as class one misdemeanors, coming up behind his victims, groping them and then fleeing, according to police.

“They have been assaults and not attacks,” said police public information officer Lucy Caldwell, adding that sexual gratification needs to be evident to classify a crime as a sexual assault.

“This guy has been doing basically the same thing for six months, and there is nothing that points to him escalating his crimes to the level of abduction or a rape,” Franconia District Police Station Commander Captain Jim Baumstark told residents last month at a community meeting addressing the assaults.

But police say this latest incident shows some marked differences from the others.

“In almost all the other cases, the victims were out walking alone, and there were not other people around,” said Caldwell. “This time, it occurred within a retail establishment with others around, and they got involved, chasing him out of the store.”

The video can be seen here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=nJK_E7cS_Bs

Anyone with information is urged to call Fairfax County Police at 703-691-2131.

gmacdonald@fairfaxtimes.com