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Security, patrols to be stepped up after assault near Power Park

By Rusty Marks, Staff writer
CHRIS DORST | Gazette
A Charleston police officer patrols Appalachian Power Park during Wednesday night’s game. Charleston police are investigating a sexual assault near the baseball park late Tuesday.

Charleston police are stepping up patrols around Appalachian Power Park, after a woman told police she was sexually assaulted after she left the ballpark late Tuesday.

“We’re taking it very seriously,” Charleston Police Chief Brent Webster said Wednesday afternoon. “It’s disturbing.”

Sgt. Tony Hazelett of the Charleston Police Department said the woman left the ball park at about 9:30 p.m. Tuesday after watching a West Virginia Power game and was walking to her car when she was approached by a man asking for money. The woman told the man she didn’t have any money, but he continued to follow her along Morris Street, Hazelett said.

When the two got near the intersection of Morris and Smith streets, Hazelett said, the man grabbed the woman by the hair, pinned her against a building and sexually assaulted her.

Webster said city police are already posted in the ballpark during games, and officers patrol the area around the park regularly.

However, the chief has asked the city’s bicycle patrol to start patrolling as well, and has asked officers who regularly patrol the city’s East End to make extra trips around the ballpark during baseball season.

West Virginia Power spokesman Adam Marco said park staff will also make sure that spectators know they can ask for an escort to their cars. He said the park has always offered escorts to patrons who wanted them, but he doesn’t think the service has ever been used.

“We’ve always had security on-site,” Marco said. “We will make sure we make it widely known that if fans want an escort to their car, it will be provided.”

Marco said Tuesday night’s assault was the most serious incident to take place near the park in the past nine years.

“Any fan or employee is a member of our family here,” he said. “We want to make sure people have a good time and feel safe.”

Webster said the area around the ballpark has not had a real crime problem over the past several years.

“Since the ball park went in in 2005, it made the area better, really,” he said.

The suspect in Tuesday’s sexual assault is described as a white male, unshaven, with long gray hair. He is of medium build and about 5 feet, 10 inches tall. Anyone with information is asked to contact the Charleston Police Department’s Criminal Investigation Division at 304-348-6480.

Reach Rusty Marks at rustymarks@wvgazette.com, call 304-348-1215 or follow @rusty_marks on Twitter.


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