Trail attack: Sequim man arrested for park assault
Posted on Wednesday 01 June @ 11:33:25
At first the screams sounded like children playing on the Dungeness River. When they continued, Dungeness River Audubon Center employee Powell Jones raced outside to investigate.
He, along with five Railroad Bridge Park visitors, helped to rescue a distraught young woman and her child from an assailant who fled May 28.
"They all saw the man running away," Jones said. "I didn't see him."
Jones brought the 22-year-old woman and her 21-month-old child to the center at about noon, said a statement from the county sheriff's office.
The woman and child were not seriously injured during the attack, the statement said. Powell said the woman told him the man approached her while she was on the beach-like area just south of the bridge. She said he picked up her cell phone and borrowed a cigarette before sitting next to her, then touching her leg while trying to see up her skirt.
She yelled at the assailant to stop and slapped his hand away, at which point he covered her mouth with his hand, forced her to the ground and threatened to kill her and her child if she kept struggling, Jones said she told him. She screamed again, alerting Jones and the passersby.
Sheriff's deputies arrested and jailed Steven Ong, 36, of Sequim several hours later in connection with the crime. Ong has a record of previous convictions for assault and kidnapping.
Ong apparently fled the scene then eluded sheriff's deputies, Sequim Police officers and a tracking dog from the Port Angeles Police Department. The dog searched the area for about two hours without finding the suspect.
Jones said witnesses saw the man running away to the north - where he tried to hitch a ride with another park visitor by claiming to have had a recent spat with his girlfriend. The motorist refused to give him a ride and drove away, said Jones.
Clallam County sheriff Joe Martin said a composite sketch of the alleged perpetrator was made from the woman's description.
About six hours later, a citizen reported seeing a man matching the description of the alleged attacker about one-half mile north of the park. Martin said the resident reported seeing the man climbing up out of the riverbed.
The statement said Ong was wearing clothing matching the description of the suspect. Upon Ong's arrest, deputies found he had outstanding arrest warrants for failing to register as a convicted sex and kidnapping offender, said the statement.
Ong was arrested on two non-family, assault-with-a-weapon charges; a strong-arm street robbery charge; and charges of probation violation and failure to register as a sex and kidnapping offender.
Martin said he felt the incident was unusual for the Olympic Discovery Trail. Most of the crime-related complaints made for the trail tend to be minors drinking alcohol or being rowdy and not hard crime, Martin said.
Jones said he's never heard of anything similar happening at the park and was very disturbed by the incident.
"I hate to see something like this happen out here," Jones said. "It makes me sick."
The sheriff said investigation of the incident is still ongoing and no motive for the alleged attack had been determined. Martin added that there is always the potential for a drug-related cause with similar crimes.
--by William Simonsen and Leif Nesheim
Sequim Gazette staff writers
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