A man Salt Lake police suspect is the so-called "Avenues rapist" was arrested early Sunday morning during a previously undisclosed, ongoing surveillance operation.
Lt. Marty Vuyk said the 31-year-old man was spotted at 2:45 a.m. by K-9 officers who were specifically assigned to be on the lookout for an individual who has been terrorizing the Avenues for months.The man was seen coming out of some bushes and spying on someone at 3rd Avenue and P Street, Vuyk said. "He ran when they (the plainclothes officers) attempted to stop him," he added.
The officers called for assistance, and they and other officers chased the suspect for two blocks before catching him. He was then arrested without further incident and booked into the Salt Lake County Jail for investigation of rape, aggravated sexual assault, aggravated burglary, attempted burglary, loitering and trespassing.
The man once lived in the Avenues and currently resides in West Valley City. The Deseret News will not print the man's name until formal charges are filed.
Vuyk said the suspect fit the general description and was wearing the same type of clothing - a gray, hooded sweatshirt and sweatpants - worn by the man who raped and assaulted several Avenues women.
Police have been conducting surveillance in the Avenues for about a month but did not disclose the fact for fear of tipping off the assailant, Vuyk said.
Last week, a number of Avenues residents publicly expressed fears of a possible serial rapist in their neighborhood and distributed fliers to alert neighbors to the danger. They also accused police of not doing enough to stop the assaults.
Vuyk said police were at work on the case long before the residents complained, but exercised caution to avoid jeopardizing the investigation.
"The thing that concerned us was that we couldn't come out and inform citizens of the surveillance and the other things we were doing," Vuyk said.
He noted that the man police arrested Sunday morning indicated that he had been following the news reports about the "Avenues rapist."
There have been three confirmed rapes in the Avenues, all believed to have been committed by the same man. The latest occurred May 7, when a 30-year-old woman awoke to find a man in her bedroom. The two other rapes occurred in the spring of 1989.
Also, police believe the same man is responsible for eight other crimes in the same area, including assaults, attempted burglaries, prowling and peeping into private homes, Vuyk said.
"The problem we encountered is that we did not have a specific suspect," Vuyk said. "So we were looking for someone who fit the physical description provided by victims and who appeared to be active in the same type of activities."