Fairfax County police have released video of what they say is the Springfield Groper, a mysterious man suspected in about two dozen attacks on women over the past several months.
The grainy surveillance video shows a man suspected of attacking a 31-year-old woman Thursday afternoon in the HomeGoods store in Kingstowne Towne Center. The man also may have committed 23 other gropings in the Springfield area in the past several months, but Thursday's attack is the only one to have taken place inside of a store with other people nearby.
He almost got caught, police said.
In Thursday's assault, the victim was shopping in the HomeGoods store when a man who was following her grabbed her and then left the business. Although several passersby tried to help track down the man, they were unable to catch him, authorities said.
The attacker, like in the other cases, was described as a Hispanic man who is about 30 years old. He was wearing a black jacket, light-colored pants and a black hat.
Police have said that the man has been difficult to catch because the encounters are so brief. Police have distributed fliers about the assaults in the area and say they've knocked on many residents' doors to inform them of the attacks.
The so-called Springfield Groper typically targets women while they are walking, jogging or waiting at bus stops. Many of the reported incidents have taken place during the day, some as early as 9 a.m., and most of the assaults have occurred on local roads surrounding Springfield Plaza.
At least eight of the attacks have occurred on roads that surround Old Keene Mill Road near the shopping center. The area is not heavily wooded, however, and is filled with hundreds of low-to- middle-income, single-story homes and apartment complexes.
It's unclear whether the man lives in the neighborhood, which is predominantly multicultural. Although the Franconia-Springfield Metro station sits more than two miles from the shopping center, Metrobuses and the Fairfax Connector both service the area.