Local News

Durham teen arrested in two American Tobacco Trail assaults

Posted June 24, 2014

Justin Sturn

— Police have arrested a teenager in connection with two assaults earlier this month on the American Tobacco Trail in Durham.

Justin Sturn, 17, was jailed under a $75,000 bond Tuesday afternoon on charges of simple assault, common law robbery and felony conspiracy in the June 5 and 6 cases in which trail-goers reported being assaulted by a teenager who was among a group of teens.

Investigators say that in the June 5 case, a man said he was riding a bike around 12:30 p.m. between Otis and Fayetteville streets when a teenager punched him and knocked him off the bike.

The teen didn’t say anything and didn’t take anything.

Around the same time the next day, however, a teenager stole a cellphone and iPod from a man walking northeast on the trail behind Hillside High School,

In that case, the teen approached the man, as well as a woman, and asked to use the man’s cellphone. When the man refused the request, police said, the teen punched the man in the face.

A third assault on a bicyclist in the same vicinity June 9 also involved several teenagers.

Durham police Lt. Brian Reitz said investigators haven’t yet identified a suspect in the third case and that all three incidents remain under investigation.

It wasn’t clear if police were looking for any other suspects in the cases or if further charges were possible.

Sturn, according to Durham Public Schools, was enrolled at Hillside High School during the last year. 

Since the assaults, Durham police have increased patrols along the trail and are trying anyone on them to follow basic safety and crime prevention tips:

  • Call 911 to report suspicious activity.
  • Stay aware of surroundings at all times.
  • Walk in well-lit areas that are not isolated.
  • If being followed, get away fast, change directions and head toward a safe location.
  • Carry a personal alarm to deter potential attackers.

This story is closed for comments.

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  • SeaDog Jun 25, 2014

    Throw the book at him and make an example out of him. Not that it would make much difference, unfortunately..

  • Marley Higgins Jun 25, 2014
    user avatar

    "If being followed, get away fast..."

    really? this is the best advice you can give? no, officer, i noticed i was being followed, so i slowed down to give the guy a chance to catch me....

    i agree with a previous poster - if the victim(s) of this punk are of a different race or skin color, charge him with a hate crime too. it'd certainly work the other way.

  • common tater Jun 25, 2014

    Glad they caught him...sad to see another youth with a bleak future due to poor choices.

  • 68_dodge_polara Jun 25, 2014

    View quoted thread

    But don't you know big government is always the answer regardless whether or not they're around when you actually need them. But rest assured they will still keep tabs on your email content.

  • flanneldaddy Jun 25, 2014

    Great news, we need these guys brought to justice!

  • landonsgrampa Jun 25, 2014

    I will be protecting myself on the trail. No need for the Police.

  • Brandon White Jun 25, 2014
    user avatar

    I expect the LE and DA to do the lawful thing, and pursue this as a "hate crime." If not then they should rescind the law.

  • Objective Scientist Jun 25, 2014

    It was a neighbor of mine who was the victim of this guy on June 5. The nature of the attack illustrates just how "cowardly" this guy - Sturn - and other like him are. Basically, this perp "sucker punched" my neighbor as he rode by on his bike. Sturn may have been playing the "Knock-Out" game... attempting to render an unsuspectiing, unaware that he has been targeted, victim unconcious with one punch. Talk about being a true COWARD! Sturn was not successful in "knocking out" the victim, my neighbor, and when my neighbor got up and gave chase... Sturn was the one member of the group of 4 that ran away the fastest! People like this guy are the "scum of the earth" - prosecute him and sentence him to the FULLEST extent of the law... and I would advocate that the laws and punishment for such attacks be make even more severe!

  • anotherbabyboomer Jun 25, 2014

    If he would have punched my husband, he would not have been able to walk away.

  • iopsyc Jun 25, 2014

    Encountered two nice LEOs patrolling the trail yesterday on bicycle.