ATLANTA -- Police are asking runners and walkers at Piedmont Park to keep an eye out for a man who threatened to rape a woman last week.
Piedmont Park may be sunny or chilly, but it's rarely empty. It's one reason why runners and walkers flock to the Midtown park for outdoor exercise. Alyson Edson said she avoids the park at night, but comes a few times a week during daylight hours: "I've actually come here during the day by myself and I felt fine."
Atlanta Police said it was during the day, at 2 p.m. last Thursday when a man approached a 56-year-old woman. She was walking in the park near the lake when he yelled "I want to rape you! Slut!".
She ran. He followed.
She was headed toward some Piedmont Park workers she had seen earlier. Two of the workers called 911, chased the man toward 10th Street, near Grady High School where they lost sight of him.
Now, police are asking anyone in Piedmont Park who might have had similar encounters, to call their special victims unit at (404) 546-4260. They're concerned he might have threatened other people or might try to follow through on the threat.
It's a warning that hits a raw nerve with runner and local blogger Elizabeth Kalifeh. She was running in Mobile, Ala. while visiting family for Thanksgiving when she was attacked.
"I heard footsteps behind me, and I thought it was another runner, so I stepped to the side. Then he stepped, no, he lunged at me. He had his arms around me and started groping my body." Kalifeh said she screamed and twisted until he finally let go. "I don't know why he let go, if it was because I was screaming, or he was only planning on groping," she said. "It was 9 in the morning in a very nice neighborhood, so he was fearless."
The man was caught on a neighbor's security tape, arrested, and charged. Kalifeh has been running for years, and like most of us, has heard all the same safety warnings. But, now, she sees it so differently. "It's funny because I'll see runners, and I want to say, 'Take those earbuds out.' I'll see female runners, or I'll see somebody running at night, and I'm like 'Put on reflective gear. Do the little things to make sure that you're safe,'" she said.
She now runs with pepper spray strapped to her wrist, always brings her phone, and no longer wears earbuds.
She's been detailing her running memories on her blog, "Running for Bling." Now those memories include more focus on safety.