Police Investigate Third Groping Incident At Columbus Panera


UPDATED: Wednesday December 11, 2013 9:07 AM

A man, who police say has groped several women at a restaurant near the Ohio State Campus, struck again.  Police now know of a third victim police say he touched inappropriately.

Police say this man has even apologized to his victims for getting too close.

The three incidents have happened at the Panera, just south of OSU campus on North High Street.

Police say they're most concerned that the man's touching could escalate to a more serious sexual assault, or rape, and that's why they want to find him.

"It appears that he's walking around outside of the store, maybe pacing up and down the sidewalk until he sees somebody that catches his eye," said Columbus Police Sgt. Terry McConnell.

Once somebody does, Sergeant Terry McConnell says the man follows them in, watches to see where they sit down, and sits close by to the point of making them feel uncomfortable.

So far, Sergeant McConnel says he knows of at least three young women, who say they've been groped at this Panera Bread.

"He'll sit in the chair that would be back-to-back to them, but he will sit sideways and then when they're not paying attention, he'll reach over.  He'll usually have a coat on his lap with a newspaper. He'll slide his hand over and start touching their buttocks real lightly," said Sgt. McConnell.

At this point, police say the young women think it's maybe his coat rubbing against theirs, but moments later, he says the man sticks his hand between the chair and their backside, and grabs them.

"Nobody wants to be violated like that, but overall, mostly shocked.  Just not expecting something like that to happen," said Sgt. McConnell

It's that element of surprise, which is why Sergeant McConnell says it's been so tough identifying the man.

Police say, even with this surveillance video from Panera, as well as this 'selfie' one of the women took, with the man in the background, they haven't been able to track the man down.

That's why they urge everyone in the area to be more vigilant.

"If your gut's telling you that something's not right, then it probably isn't," said Sgt. McConnell.

Sgt. McConnell says he believes the man has groped other women nearby, and urges anyone who sees him or knows where he is, to immediately report it to police.

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