LORAIN, OH (WOIO) - Police are still searching for a masked man who they say approached three young girls on their way to Lorain City Schools on Thursday morning.
According to Lorain Police, the first incident was at 6:07 a.m. in the area of Washington and West 9th. They say the suspect grabbed the girl by the arm, made a threatening comment and punched her twice in the face. She screamed and fled. Police say she was not injured.
"We don't want to go into details of what exactly he said, some vulgar comments, some threatening comments," said Det. Sgt. Buddy Sivert, of the Lorain Police Department. "As far as the details of what happened, we'd like to keep that limited, we don't want to release that yet."
At 7:20 a.m., near Oberlin and West 8th, police say a man with the same suspect description exposed himself and followed a girl into a yard before running away.
Then at 7:46 a.m. in the area of West 18th and Oakdale, police believe the same suspect grabbed another girl from behind and ran off.
"The description of the male, it looks like the same male in each incident," said Sivert. "Obviously, we don't know for sure, [but] we feel that they were grabbed in a sexual manner."
Police say they are looking for a white man in his mid-20s to mid-30s, 5'10" to 6' tall, wearing a black jacket with a hood, dark jeans, dark shoes, dark gloves, and possibly some type of cloth, black mask covering his face.
Police hope to find the suspect, who remains at large, before he acts again.
"This is a unique situation. We investigate prowler complaints and stranger complaints from kids all the time, but this is very concerning to us because, one, the description of the suspect is the same in all three incidents. The fact that he is not just approaching children, but he's actually laying hands on them, that increases the threat level to anybody," Sivert explained.
Sivert and Lorain City Schools Superintendent Jeff Graham said the girls who were approached did exactly the right thing by doing everything they could to get away from the suspect.
"It's important that if [children] are put in a situation where somebody grabs them, somebody tries to get them to approach, the immediate reaction to scream, fight is the most important thing they can do," said Sivert. "Individuals who are forcibly taken, the sooner they fight, the percentage, the chance of getting set free is greater."
Both asked parents to speak with their children about what to do if a stranger approaches them.
Students were dismissed at the regular time Thursday, but the superintendent said the district would continue to work with police and remain on high alert while the suspect is on the loose.
Graham stressed to parents that their children are likely safer at school than almost anywhere else.
"We have state-of-the-art equipment when it comes to safety and security. And the doors are locked. And people can't get into our building without us knowing exactly who they are. And everyone comes in through the office," said Graham.
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