PROVO — Police on Monday arrested a Provo man suspected of groping five women on the campus of Brigham Young University under the guise of “falling” or “stumbling” into them.
Jacob “Jack” Scott Hansen, 26, was booked into the Utah County Jail for investigation of sexual battery.
Hansen, a senior at BYU, is accused of inappropriately grabbing five women on their buttocks and also reaching around one woman’s abdomen and tickling her.
Provo police also confirmed they are investigating a similar incident with a possible sixth victim reported to have happened off campus.
In each case, Hansen is accused of walking up behind his victim and pretending to fall or stumble, and then groping the woman as he pretends to maintain his balance, according to police. He then apologizes as if it were an accident and keeps walking, police say.
“He’s admitted to it. He’s admitted to the five,” said BYU Police Lt. Jeffrey Long.
“I heard the footsteps get faster, and I didn’t have time to process that before his hands were around my waist and he started tickling my stomach,” one of the alleged victims said of her experience Monday night.
“I screamed and jumped. So I turned around, still with his arms around me, and it wasn’t a familiar face. And then I jumped away and screamed,” she said.
Hansen was recorded on the university’s security surveillance system assaulting one of the victims, according to police. In the video, a man is seen crossing the street to get behind a woman who is walking alone, and then picks up his pace to catch up to her before appearing to accidentally trip and fall into her. He then quickly keeps walking.
“If you’ve seen the video, you can see how aggressive that attack was. So, yeah, we’re all relieved this guy’s in custody,” Long said Monday after Hansen’s arrest.
The campus surveillance system is also what led to Hansen’s arrest. Long said detectives were able to use video to follow the man to his car and get a license plate number.
“We were able to find that Jacob ‘Jack’ Hansen has registered the vehicle with BYU parking. We went to the address reported for Jack Hansen and found him home. He voluntarily came to the BYU Police Department with police officers. He waived his rights and agreed to talk to officers. During the interview, Jack Hansen admitted to grabbing women on campus,” a police booking affidavit states.
Police say Hansen lives close to campus and they believe he would drive onto school grounds, park, then walk around looking for women to follow.
Long said Hansen is very familiar with the layout of BYU’s campus.
The incidents prompted Brigham Young University police to issue a “timely warning notice” on Sunday, notifying other students to be on alert. After the alert was issued, other women who say they also had contact with the man but weren’t sure at the time what was happening, contacted police when they heard of the other incidents and realized it was part of the man’s modus operandi.
Among the incidents reported to police:
- A woman told police she was “shocked” that a man came up from behind her while she was jogging about 2 p.m. Saturday along Cougar Boulevard between the Tanner Building and Helaman Halls, and grabbed her buttocks, according to the affidavit.
- Two women reported being groped Sunday at Helaman Halls between the Cannon Center and Taylor Hall. The first was about 12:20 p.m. and the second just after 1 p.m.
- A woman walking on the sidewalk on 800 North next to the Life Sciences Buildings about 2:25 p.m. on Sunday told police that a man came up from behind her and “reached around her abdomen and tickled her,” according to the affidavit.
- Another woman, after hearing news reports of the other victims, called police on Monday to report she was also walking near the Life Sciences Building about 2 p.m. Sunday when “she too was grabbed from behind by an unknown male who said he tripped and was falling when he grabbed both sides of her buttocks with both hands,” the affidavit states.
Police are encouraging anyone else to call them who may have been inappropriately touched but didn’t realize at the time the full scope of what was happening.
“I felt a lot more violated knowing that it was intentional. And that’s when I really started to get shaky and angry and dealing with all these different emotions knowing that he could have gone on and done worse,” one of the alleged victims said.
Police were encouraging students to walk with someone when possible and report any suspicious activity by calling police at 801-422-2222 or 911 if it is an emergency.
In 2014, 16 women around BYU’s campus reported being groped or swatted by a jogger. A former BYU track team member was charged in two of those incidents and eventually entered into a diversion agreement with prosecutors. He successfully completed the terms of the agreement and his record was later expunged.
Contributing: Debbie Worthen