Seattle woman reports taking down another assailant while running
Oct 15, 2018, 9:54 AM | Updated: Oct 17, 2018, 11:10 am
(Colleen O'Brien/KIRO Radio)
The runner who took down a sexual assailant at Seattle’s Golden Gardens Park in 2017 has done it again. Kelly Herron reported on her Twitter feed that a man groped her while running a half-marathon in Vancouver, Wash. But just like the first incident in Seattle, she fought back.
Her advice for others facing similar challenges is to not only fight back, but to follow through to bring a suspect to justice.
“In thinking about what to do and how to stop this, I think it starts with pressing charges when someone grabs you inappropriately,” Herron told KIRO Radio. “Just going through it. It’s not the easy or convenient thing to do. Just the look on his face, it was like he loved getting away with it. He was going to do it again. I do not have the tolerance for that.”
“This is not stopping me,” she said. “I’ll be out running today, and again tomorrow and almost every day.”
Herron was running a half marathon in Vancouver on Sunday.
“It was absolutely beautiful. It was very well managed (marathon),” she said. “I was actually having the best race that I ever had. It was going so great until it wasn’t.”
“There’s a lot of waterfront running in the area … I had just hit mile 12, with about a mile to go to the finish,” she said. “I was coming around a blind corner and this guy was coming towards me … he was looking at me like he knew me, he had this really creepy smile on his face. His hands were down low, like a low hug position. He just ran right at me and grabbed my rear end — full on.”
Herron broke from the route and chased down the man.
“I looked at him and he got this smug smile on his face, and it just sent me into a complete rage,” she said. “I had just run 12 miles at a race pace. I just spun around on my heels. I thought of Maria’s story about how she started screaming. I chased him and screamed ‘assault, assault, assault!’”
Herron said that the only place for the man to run away from her was back onto the race course area. She continued the pursuit. A spectator was on a bench with his wife and heard Herron screaming. He got up and knocked the suspect down. They started wrestling. Herron, however, got the impression that the suspect had gotten away.
“I was running a race,” she said. “I wasn’t out for an afternoon jog.”
— Kelly Herron – NTMF (@Run_Kiwi_Run) October 15, 2018
So she ran to the finish line where the fire department was handing out medals. She told a firefighter about what happened and he got the message out. It turned out, however, the suspect was taken down by the spectator. His wife called 911 and police had taken the suspect into custody.
“It was such a great reminder that even though there are total scum bags like the guy who grabbed me, there are amazing, good guys out there who are willing to stand up for someone they don’t know …” she said of the unknown spectator who got involved. “He took action when he saw something. I am so grateful. I wish more people would be that way … him doing that wasn’t just for me, it was for every other woman this could happen to.”
“The guy was in custody,” Herron said. “I was so relieved … I felt so much better he was in jail and he wasn’t out there doing it to somebody else. This is the type of behavior that escalates. They see what they can get away with and it becomes more and more and more. And then they become complete monsters.”
Herron says that despite dealing with the incident, she made a 02:15 finish.
After the race, she began thinking about why something like this happened to her again, in an entirely different city than Seattle. She began questioning what she was wearing or how she reacted. But she stresses that it’s important that women have a certain understanding.
“It’s really important to realize that this is not your fault,” Herron said. “There are just sick people. You do what you can do in that situation. When the adrenaline kicks in, it’s confusing. Like I was ‘Why did I finish the race?’ It seems like such a weird thing to do. But you don’t really know how to react.”
“I just hope this inspires other women to do the same thing, even though it is emotionally exhausting and frustrating, and irritating, and inconvenience,” she said. “We have to stop these guys, we have to press charges, we have to file reports, and not stand for it, let it go, or let is slide anymore.”
Herron has become a proponent of self-defense classes for women after she was attacked in 2017. She has been vocal about the issues women and runners face in areas such as Seattle. After another runner was assaulted near Green Lake earlier this month, Herron said that Seattle isn’t listening to women about the dangers they face in the city.
Now, she says she lost patience with Seattle. Herron recently moved to southwest Washington to be closer to family.
“I really needed to move,” Herron said. “Being in Seattle was becoming a mental health issue for me. Just watching the homelessness spiraling out of control, and the crime grow, and the traffic – it was just wearing on me mentally.”
She has no plans to move back, but hopes things improve for her friends in Seattle.
“Leaving Seattle was the best decision that I ever made,” she said. “I feel really whole and content. It was the right thing to do and I’m so glad I got out when I did …. I hope things get better and that there is a clean sweep of the city council and there is some real change that happens that focuses on protecting women and people who recreate in the area. That’s my hope. But I just didn’t have the patience to stick around and wait to find out.”
Herron’s first run in with an assailant
In March 2017, Herron was attacked while running in Seattle’s Golden Gardens Park. She went into a park restroom where Gary Steiner, a transient sex offender from Arizona, attempted to rape her. Steiner had hid in the restroom with the intention of raping a woman.
But Herron fought back, kicking and screaming. People outside the restroom heard her screams and called 911. She was able to escape the attack and locked Steiner in the bathroom.
Steiner was convicted of the crime and sent to prison for a three-year sentence. More than a year after the assault, he died in prison.