A woman sleeping near a downtown Palo Alto sidewalk was beaten by a man during a robbery attempt early Sunday morning, Dec. 2, police said. The attack occurred shortly after another robbery attempt a few blocks away.
Police believe the two incidents are likely related. Palo Alto police dispatch received a 911 call from a woman at about 1:20 a.m. She reported that she had just been beaten by an unknown man. Officers arrived in the area about a minute later but were unable to locate the assailant.
The investigation revealed that the victim, a woman in her 70s, had been asleep in an alcove of a vacant business in the 300 block of University Avenue near Bryant Street. She awoke to find an unknown man reaching into the pockets of her outer clothing.
The man made a statement indicating that he was looking for money. The victim pushed him away, but the man punched her numerous times in the head, face and chest before fleeing the scene, police said.
The woman was not able to provide a direction of travel for the assailant. He did not steal anything from the victim, and he was not armed with a weapon, according to police.
The victim sustained moderate injuries to her face, including swelling and bruising around her eyes and nose. She received medical treatment at the scene by the Palo Alto Fire Department, and a police officer transported her to a local hospital for a follow-up evaluation.
The victim described the suspect as of unknown race, between 18 and 22 years old and 5 feet 6 inches tall with a thin build. He was wearing a dark sweatshirt with a gray hood.
This crime occurred within 15 minutes of a purse-snatching attempted robbery in the 200 block of Homer Avenue near Emerson Street. In that case, a man approached a pedestrian in her 30s from behind, pushed her to the ground, and tried to take her purse. When she resisted, he punched her six to eight times in the face, police said. The man left after the woman fought back, and she chased after him. She went to the police department to report the crime, police said.
While the suspect descriptions from these two incidents have differences, detectives believe it is likely the same man due to the geographic proximity, similar time frame, and the similar actions and intent of the assailant, police said.
Although the first incident was reported promptly to police, detectives needed additional time to investigate the circumstances surrounding the assault prior to distributing a press release, police said on Tuesday.
Officers are increasing high-visibility patrols in the downtown area in response to the crimes. Patrol officers are on the lookout for the man and detectives are actively investigating both cases, the department said.
Police ask that the public report suspicious behavior immediately by calling 911 and that anyone who may have information about this crime contact the 24-hour dispatch center at 650-329-2413. Anonymous tips can be e-mailed to firstname.lastname@example.org or sent by text message or voice mail to 650-383-8984.