Local News

American Tobacco Trail assault marks 12th incident this year

Posted September 20, 2012

— Police investigators said Thursday that they believe an assault on the American Tobacco Trail in Durham this week was sexually motivated and that it's not related to at least 11 other incidents on the trail this year.

The latest attack happened around 6:15 p.m. Wednesday. A woman told police she was walking near the intersection of Apex and Fargo streets when she saw her attacker pass her and then turn around and follow her for about a quarter-mile before knocking her to the ground.

"He jumped on my back, put his arm around my stomach, around my wrist and basically wrestled me to the ground," the woman, Ginny Mueller, said Thursday. "I was screaming as loud as I could. I dropped my phone. I'd been talking to my father."

The two struggled on the ground until a passing bicyclist scared the man away, police said.

"I hit (the attacker) in the face a few times. He responded by hitting me in the face and the back of the head," Mueller said.

Police don't have any suspects and are asking anyone with any information to call Crime Stoppers at 919-683-1200.

American Tobacco Trail American Tobacco Trail assault marks 12th incident this year

The alleged attacker was described only as being a stocky black man between 25 and 35 years old and standing about 5 feet 11 inches. He was wearing all black clothing.

"I keep thinking of what I could have done differently," Mueller said.

One thing, she said, was to have been more aware.

"I was on the phone. I was distracted. I wasn't paying attention," Mueller said. "I think there were some signs that I missed."

So far this year, 12 crimes have been reported on the 7.5-mile section of the trail that runs through Durham – seven assaults, four robberies and one case of indecent exposure.

In 2011, five robberies, two assaults and six cases of indecent exposure were reported on the same portion.

Durham Police Chief Jose Lopez says that the police department has increased patrols in the area and is looking at all possible options – ranging from surveillance cameras to emergency phones on the trail – to help keep the trail-goers safe.

The department has also bought three utility terrain vehicles for use on the trail.

Police urge others to go on the trail in pairs, avoid groups that are loitering in the area and to carry cellphones to report suspicious activity.

Mueller said she'll likely never go for a walk again while on the phone.

"I'd like to carry mace, pepper spray, with me while I'm walking," she said. "That will make me feel a whole lot better."

Mueller added that she does plan to get back on the trail again soon but that it might take her a week or two.

"I'm trying so hard to overcome this and have it make me a stronger person, make me more aware in these situations," she said.


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  • Mon Account Sep 21, 2012

    When I was growing up, I had a friend who lived in the projects. He schooled me on things not to do. Never walk with headphones on- you will get jumped. Never walk at night alone and if you have to, then walk down the middle of the street. Creeps hide in bushes along pavements to get you- it can buy a few seconds head start, and the streets tend to be better lit than the sidewalks. When walking down the street, never walk closely to large vehicles and vans- people can jump out and pull you in to rob you (or worse). Always lock your car doors when driving. Fold up your side mirror and pull as close to a drive-through ATM as possible. Several times people in my family skipped the ATM because of 'lurkers'. One tried to grab my mom's $

    When I moved from PA to Raleigh people thought I was paranoid/crazy. Until we were at an intersection and a homeless guy tried to open the car doors.

    It's NEVER the victim's fault but there are precautions to help keep the freaks from attacking.

  • nowon_yuno Sep 20, 2012

    Of course, allowing citizens to carry weapons and defend themselves would never work ... protecting citizens is the GOVERNMENT's job ...

    Youre right actually. Read article IV section IV of the constitution. It is the governments job to protect you NOT take care of you. But my how times have changed, there are people out there that fail at life so badly they need to government to lead them around by the nose. Unfortunatly they lead them right to the voting booth too

  • nowon_yuno Sep 20, 2012

    Get your gun! Protect yourself! SFSOLDIER........... Said that first thing this morning but I think that solution is too simple for others to comprehend.
    daughters of anarchy

    Maybe the government can force everyone into gun ownership, like they did with healthcare

  • Nothing Like an Old Dog Sep 20, 2012

    Thanks exador7 for the comment and you're probably right about Conceal Carry on public parks. Yet as a wise old man once told me, "I'd rather be tried by 12 in court than carried by 7 to a gravesite. I say lock and load your weapon and defend yourself. Again, with every day that passes more and more Americans are getting sick and tired of this kind of mess. Stop blaming schools, government and everything else in the world. These are simply sorry folks with no redeaming value for society. I don't even live near Durham but I think I'm going to start walking that trail!!!

  • Reason Season Sep 20, 2012

    More and more we are seeing cameras work as deterents or as a means to help solve crime quicker. Put up cameras along the trails throughout NC! It's past time we upgrade our public safety grid. Parks have been a hunting ground for too long! I also believe we need to have emergency pull boxes in parks equipped with cameras too so if someone is victimized they can reach out for help. Thank heaven a cyclist passed by! Police can't be in all places at all times. We need our parks to be equipped with safety in mind in this day and age.

  • Realthoughts Sep 20, 2012

    Okay NAACP, here is your chance to step up and denounce this incident and demand that it needs to stop!

  • trianglerelic Sep 20, 2012

    I'm guessing that "American Tobacco Trail" is a Park, thus private citizens are not allowed to carry a Firearm for their own protection. I would encourage anyone that has been attacked, robbed, or otherwise to Sue... Sue... Sue... When an establishment prevents you from protecting yourself, they assume the responsibility to protect your well being. I don't recall the exact timeframe, but a man in Florida was mugged while leaving a restarant that had signs banning firearms. The man sued that the establishment did not provide adequate protection while preventing him from protecting himself. It was an open and shut case, he pocketed a very nice settlement...
    Criminals know that private citizens are not allowed to carry guns in parks and are taking full advantage of the situation.. Durham needs to post armed guards, or change it's laws to allow Legal gun owners to defend themselves...

  • daughters of anarchy Sep 20, 2012

    Get your gun! Protect yourself!
    Said that first thing this morning but I think that solution is too simple for others to comprehend.

  • LocalYokel Sep 20, 2012

    Lets put things in perspective here. ATT is still much safer than driving on I-40 in the triangle area. More people have been assaulted by aggressive drivers on I-40 than have been assaulted on the ATT. Also, no one has died from an assault on the ATT but we cant say the same about I-40.

  • friendlyman Sep 20, 2012

    wow, they advise to carry a cell phone? get real, all women should get concealed carry and arm themselves