Police search for man in sexual assault investigation near Pitt campus

PITTSBURGH — Pittsburgh police are reviewing surveillance footage and are working to identify the man who sexually assaulted a woman Sunday morning near the University of Pittsburgh campus.

Investigators said they have obtained still and video images of the suspect and may release them to the public as the investigation continues.

Students Channel 11 talked to Monday were disturbed and concerned for the victim.

“It’s something out of like a crime show. It’s terrible,” Pitt senior Dallas Mercurio said. “I live on this street, and I have a lot of friends who live around here too so the first instinct was to text everyone just to make sure they were ok.”

Mercurio said she immediately reached out to her friends to check on them and is now looking to buy pepper spray.

The university sent a crime alert about the incident on Sunday. The assault happened in the 200 block of Melwood Avenue between Centre Avenue and Bayard Street.

Pittsburgh police say a woman got off a PRT bus around 2:10 a.m. and was walking to her apartment on the phone when a masked man approached her from behind with a knife and told her to stop talking.

The woman told police the man sexually assaulted her in an alleyway, threatened to kill her, punched her in the eye and stole her phone. She says he then got “scared off” and ran away. The victim then called 911.

Police say someone in the area also called 911 after hearing what he thought was a sexual assault.

Channel 11 asked the university if the victim is a student. A spokesman replied, “We cannot confirm or deny if the victim in this case is a Pitt affiliate.”

The university’s police department said on social media it is “continuing to support City of Pittsburgh Police in their investigation” and would provide updates on the investigation.

“I watch the news, read the papers. Stuff like that happens. But this is the first I heard it happen here,” Albert Giampaolo said. “I’m like shocked. Like I said, if I would have heard the scream, I would have been out this door in a heartbeat.”

Police described the suspect as a man with a thin build, approximately 30-40 years old, around 5 feet, 6 inches or 5 feet, 7 inches tall. Investigators said he was last seen wearing a long-sleeve black shirt, cargo pants and a ski mask.

“They’re predators, people who do that – put masks over their face, hide. They’re cowards as far as I’m concerned,” Giampaolo said.

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