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Woman attacked while running at Green Lake warns other joggers

Marathon runner and Green Lake attack survivor Maria Ball. (KIRO 7)

When 26-year-old Maria Ball, who is training for the New York Marathon, was planning a route for an early-morning 16-mile run on Friday, she originally intended to run from her home in Ballard down to Lake Union, but changed to Green Lake for safety reasons.

“I decided against that, because especially running through that lower Fremont area at six in the morning — I did not want to get attacked, honestly, that’s why I did not run there,” she said to KIRO Radio’s Dori Monson.

Ball runs Green Lake with a running group every weekend, and felt safe in the residential area. At this time of year, it is dark around 6 a.m., but Ball — a runner with 13 years of experience — took precautions. She wore a headlamp, safety vest, and reflective gear, and left her headphones out.

RELATED: Mother of son at Children’s Hospital fights off attempted rapists on evening walk

After running the outer loop of Green Lake, Ball ran down Ravenna Boulevard which passes under I-5 near the Roosevelt area.

“As I crossed under that, I saw a man in a hooded sweatshirt and blue jeans coming from that green tent that’s on the south side of Ravenna Boulevard … he seemed a little bit off,” she said.

Ball does not believe the man had followed her, but she does think he was waiting for her to come back.

Ball ran east to Cowen Park, then turned around to head back to Green Lake. It was at 6:30 a.m. on 62nd Street right by the I-5 overpass — the street is lined with houses. That when Ball’s run turned into a sudden nightmare. With not even the sound of footsteps as a warning, the man Ball had seen earlier at the tent attacked her from behind.

“Next thing you know, a man came behind me and grabbed both of my breasts and then also my crotch,” Ball said. “When that happened, all that I knew was that was not OK and I needed to get help as fast as I could.”

The young woman’s immediate fear was that the attacker had a weapon and was about to kill her. It occurred to Ball that this could be the end of her life.

“All I could think was, ‘Oh my God, does he have a weapon — does he have a knife, does he have a gun, is this it, am I going to die?” Ball said.

Ball said that all she could think about in those moments that felt like eternity was Kelly Herron, the runner who fought off a rapist at Golden Gardens last year.

“I was not gonna let that guy take me down,” Ball said.

RELATED: Golden Gardens attack survivor says Seattle’s homeless problem is only getting worse

Like Herron, Ball had taken a self-defense course. At the time, Ball had not believed she would need those skills, but now they saved her.

“One thing that came to mind was, in that class was, when you don’t remember any of the things to do with your body, your voice is your most powerful weapon,” she said.

Ball screamed so loudly that she said she woke the entire neighborhood, and even people across Ravenna Boulevard. She threw her elbows back, ramming them into the attacker’s stomach.

“My screaming and also elbows back scared him … he took off running,” she said.

Neighbors in the area came to Ball’s rescue. Unfortunately, the attempted rapist had run off before anyone could catch him.

RELATED: Woman raped in Ballard dealership’s bathroom

The attacker, whom Ball described as stocky and about five feet eight inches tall, remains on the loose. Police told Ball that the same man had attacked a different woman in the same neighborhood just the week before. She now wants other Green Lake runners, in particular women, to be especially vigilant during their workouts.

“The cops did say the guy is still out there, they’re looking for him, and if he attacks again, it will be more violent — it will most likely be rape,” Ball said. “So everyone running in that area really needs to be high alert.”

For Ball, it’s a shock that such a violent attack happened in Green Lake, a neighborhood known for its quietness and family-friendliness.

“When I lived at 15th and Market in Ballard, I felt more unsafe walking a block to that Safeway than I ever felt walking around Green Lake,” Ball said. “Now it’s worse, because I was attacked in Green Lake.”

Ball moved here from Baltimore, she said, where there is a murder every 13 hours, yet she never was attacked running there. No longer feeling safe in Seattle, Ball wants to see the Seattle City Council take action to protect residents from the homeless drug addicts who attack innocent citizens and have local runners living in fear.

Ironically, Ball had attended the town hall meeting with Seattle City Councilmember Mike O’Brien this past May, and called on O’Brien to help her.

“I said, ‘What is it going to take? How many more people are going to be attacked? How many more people are going to be killed before you do something to handle the homelessness in this city?'” she recalled. “And that same girl, me, Maria Ball, less than six months later, was attacked in Green Lake.”

Seattle is a growing center of technology and wealth, but despite the image of prosperity, Ball said that she knows of many people who are leaving the Emerald City because they are too terrified to live among the criminals and transients.

“I know many people moving out of the city because they don’t feel safe anymore,” Ball said. “You know, you can make all this money, but you’re going to get jumped walking to your car.”

 

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