Dubuque police investigate two reports of random attacks on wome - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Dubuque police investigate two reports of random attacks on women

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Dubuque Police are investigating two reports of random attacks on women in the Washington neighborhood.

The first happened around 4:15 a.m. on May 25, in a woman's garage near the corner of East 16th and Jackson Streets. The woman claims a man approached her and asked her for a cigarette. Then, she told police, the man tried raping her.

Dubuque Police Lt. Scott Baxter said the alleged crimes are second-degree burglary and second-degree sexual abuse.

The more recent incident happened around 3 a.m. on Wednesday, in the 1600 block of Washington Street. Ashley Schaefer said she was sitting by herself on her second-story back porch, smoking a cigarette, when a man she didn't know came to the bottom of the steps and asked if her neighbor was home.

"When I told him no, he came up the stairs, put one hand around my mouth, one hand behind my neck," she told KWWL Friday afternoon. "The hand with the knife was behind my neck, and he said, 'If you don't scream, I won't hurt you.'"

A fight followed. Schaefer said the man's knife cut her in the scuffle and some damage happened to her back porch. Cut wounds are still visible on her body and her back porch has a hole through part of the lattice.

She said she fought him off for several minutes.

"Then I decided that enough was enough and kicked him incredibly hard in the groin, and he doubled over and backed up into the railing, and that's when I went inside, locked the door and called the cops," Schaeder said.

Baxter said the crime in that incident is assault while displaying a dangerous weapon.

Police have no suspect or person of interest in either incident and don't know whether the two are related. The physical descriptions of the men don't perfectly match up, Baxter said, but police aren't ruling out a connection.

The two alleged attacks worry Schaefer's neighbor Amanda Maas, who was sitting on her front porch with her family Friday afternoon.

"I easily could've been sitting out here instead of her, and if he walked this way, it could've been me," Maas said. "That terrifies me."

She and her boyfriend live in the 1600 block of Washington Street with their two young children. Maas said they plan on selling their house and moving elsewhere in Dubuque within a year.

"It makes me extremely nervous," Maas said. "My boyfriend actually told me I'm not allowed to smoke outside unless it's broad daylight and I'm with people, that he wants me to be on my back porch because...there's [a] big fence."

Schaefer said her alleged encounter has made her want to encourage other women to take precautions.

"I wanted to let other women know that, 'Hey, this is happening. You need to either protect yourself in any way that you see fit or don't go outside alone because I'm on my own back porch and I get attacked,'" she said, adding she now plans on getting a concealed-carry permit and a firearm.

While Dubuque Police can't yet confirm the accuracy of either report, Baxter said, they are treating both as serious and real.

Neighbors expressed concerns about crime in the Washington neighborhood, but they also acknowledged there are good people and positive neighborhood efforts in the area as well. The city is trying to revitalize the area by promoting home-ownership and fostering community through block parties, among other efforts.

"I actually love that they are trying really hard to make it a better neighborhood," Maas said.

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