Three separate but similar incidents in the past month have authorities looking for a man with a penchant for feet.
The first incident occurred Sept. 11, by 37th and Catalina streets. A female student — a junior majoring in print journalism who chose to remain anonymous — said she was riding her bike to her friend’s house around 3:30 p.m. when the suspect gestured for her to ride over to him.
The man told her he was a podiatry student at USC conducting research on the arches of people’s feet and would like to look at her feet.
“He was like, ‘I was wondering if I could take a look at your arch.’ I told him no, and that I was late meeting my friend. He was like, ‘You know what, it’ll only take two seconds, I just have to look at your foot,’” the student said. “Because I was wearing flip flops, I held out my foot.”
After the student held out her foot, the man began to massage and fondle her feet. When the student realized the man was not actually a podiatry student, she tried to walk away but he yanked her foot back and began kissing it.
“He told me, ‘You have beautiful feet, you should thank me for kissing your foot with my lips,’” the student said.
The student then pulled back her foot away, rode away and called the USC Department of Public Safety.
Another female student reported Monday that as she was riding her bicycle by 37th and Catalina, a man gestured for her to stop.
She ignored him and continued toward her apartment, but the man followed and asked her twice if he could look at her feet. The man claimed to be an orthopedist. The student refused both times, then went inside her apartment and called DPS.
A third female student reported Tuesday that while she was walking near Century Apartments, a man approached her asking to see her feet. This time, the man claimed to be a shoemaker.
The student refused the request, and the suspect walked to a vehicle parked nearby.
The student had heard of similar incidents occurring in the past, so she took down the suspect’s license plate number and contacted DPS.
DPS Capt. David Carlisle said although these are suspicious circumstances that should be reported to DPS, no crime has been committed yet.
“If someone asks for consent and a student gives it to them, it’s not a crime,” Carlisle said. “If he did fondle someone against their will, then it could be considered a sexual battery, but thus far that hasn’t happened. He approached two other people who did not fall for his proposal. We will have to see where this leads.”
DPS Chief John Thomas said the students who reported the encounters gave thorough descriptions each time. The man was described by all three students as a 20- to 25-year-old Hispanic male with spiky hair. DPS believes there is only one suspect acting repeatedly.
“This is odd behavior. Who knows what else he may be up to, so we want to get this person identified,” Carlisle said.
Thomas said DPS is working with LAPD to identify the suspect and they have dedicated additional resources to both areas where the suspect has been spotted.
“We’ve added extra officers and we’re working with LAPD to ensure that their resources are aware of this individual’s description,” Thomas said.
Brooke Parker, a junior majoring in violin performance who lives in Century, said that despite these incidents, she still feels safe walking off campus.
“If you’re careful, it’s not that dangerous,” Parker said. “I always feel safe because Century is so close to campus, and since we have those new [security ambassadors], I feel like someone is always watching.”