Redmond-area residents and community members gathered Tuesday evening at Marymoor Park in King County to show their support for a woman who was recently assaulted by a man along the park’s trail.
The Walk for Safety came about after news broke about a 42-year-old woman who was attacked on Aug. 5.
SUPPORTING THE SURVIVOR
Sharon Ilstrup, a Redmond resident who lives on Union Hill, was one of the event’s organizers and said she felt the need to do something for the other woman. Ilstrup contacted someone close to the woman’s family and asked if there was anything they needed but was told the family had a lot of support.
Ilstrup still wanted to do something so she and a friend came up with the idea of a walk to celebrate the woman — who people at Tuesday’s event called a survivor, not a victim — and her strength and courage.
“This is a walk for her,” Ilstrup said, adding that the survivor and her family would have attended if the attacker had been caught.
While the survivor, who grew up in the Redmond and Kirkland area, did not attend, she did give Ilstrup a written statement to be read to the crowd. In that statement, the survivor voiced her and her family’s support for the event. She also described her attack, stating that her attacker attempted to strangle her to death. The survivor’s statement encouraged people to look for the attacker as she is worried he may strike again and that the next victim may not be as lucky as she was to survive. She also thanked the witness who came to her aid.
“My family and I are so grateful to him and I truly owe my life to him,” her statement read.
Throughout the evening, much was said about the survivor fighting her attacker and how her yells were what attracted the witness, who was able to scare away the suspect.
“I am just so impressed by (the survivor),” said King County Sheriff’s Office (KCSO) Sgt. Cindi West, who also attended the walk.
COMING TOGETHER AS A COMMUNITY
The survivor also encouraged other women to not walk or run the trail alone and for the community to continue to look out for each other.
Karen Swanson, who attended Tuesday’s event, is taking that advice to heart. The Redmond resident and her husband often ride their bikes along the trail and she also walks the trail. Prior to the assault, she said she would walk by herself but now, she is not as comfortable and makes sure to have at least one other person with her. Swanson — who said Tuesday’s walk was a way of showing community spirit — added that she is even uncomfortable walking along the trails in the woods by her house now. Before, she said, it was just bears they would have to worry about. Now it’s people, as well.
“How are we going to catch this guy?” Swanson asked.
She said they cannot let something like this happen again.
This was a common sentiment as in addition to celebrating the survivor, Tuesday’s event included a lot of talk about this among attendees. Residents also said they won’t let the attack stop them from being outside and enjoying the park.
“We’re taking back the park,” Ilstrup said. “We’re taking back the trails.”
She said people should not be afraid following this attack, but they do need to be vigilant.
Brian Tosch, who lives across the street from Marymoor Park, came out to Tuesday’s walk because the assault happened directly in his neighborhood. He said he wanted to make sure the issue is not dropped and that they can work toward a resolution.
One way they did this was by distributing fliers featuring a drawing of the suspect’s face.
Members of Elite Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu also gave a demonstration featuring some self-defense tactics people could employ if they found themselves in a similar position as the survivor.
AN ONGOING INVESTIGATION
In addition to West, other members of KCSO as well as the Redmond Police Department (RPD) were in attendance Tuesday.
“I am blown away,” said West about the event’s turnout, adding — on multiple occasions — that the community coming together as it did almost brought her to tears.
West and other law enforcement officers in attendance took questions from the crowd, which included specifics regarding the investigation that they could not share at the time.
One of the questions from the crowd — which West admitted that she was waiting for — was regarding how long it took for KCSO to get the information about the attack out to the public. West apologized for their delay, stating that they were focused on the investigation and informing the public was a lower priority.
“The investigation comes first,” West explained. “We want to catch our bad guy.”
Attendees also had questions regarding the area’s homeless population as the description of the assault suspect stated that he may be transient.
Becky Range, public information officer for the RPD, said in the two weeks leading up to the assault, officers and the city’s new homeless outreach specialist did not find any homeless camps within a mile of Marymoor Park. She said this just means there was no one staying in the area overnight.
During the walk, attendees walked along the Marymoor Park Trail and stopped near the area where the survivor was attacked. When they reached that point, the group sent a unified message to her to “Be strong,” which was met with applause.