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Police look for suspect of alleged sexual assault in vehicle near SDSU

A San Diego State University student was allegedly sexually assaulted on Sunday in a vehicle by a person the student believed to have been a rideshare driver.

The incident occurred Sunday in the area of 70th Street and Saranac Street in San Diego, according to SDSU authorities.

"The victim/survivor, who is an SDSU student, informed SDPD that they entered a vehicle, which at the time they thought was a rideshare vehicle, at an unknown location possibly in the college area. At some point between the victim/survivor entering the vehicle and getting dropped off at an off-campus location, the victim/survivor told police that the driver sexually assaulted them," Josh Mays, associate vice president of Safety and Community Empowerment at SDSU, said in a statement.


San Diego police said the student got into the car on a residential street south of campus. The male driver drove the student around the College Area and assaulted the student inside the car before dropping the student off on 70th Street between Mohawk Avenue and Alvarado Road, Lt. Carmen Rivera from the sex crime unit said.

News of the assault was top of mind Monday for many students on campus.

Freshman Graciela Garcia said the incident made her more alert as she commutes to school using public transportation.

“Especially because it could be coming or going from school," she said. "And since I do that every day, it's like I could be at a threat sometimes, too.”

For senior Anusha Palanivelu, it’s about the loss of trust in ridesharing services. She’s used the services to get to and from SDSU for events on campus.


“Whether you've been drinking or something like that, you take a rideshare because you trust it that you'll get home safe. Right? And so that happening in a rideshare is like it's unimaginable. It's unthinkable.”

SDSU authorities said University Police and the San Diego Police Department have increased patrol on campus and the surrounding area with the start of the fall semester.

Officials have also advised the following rideshare safety tips:

  • Notify a friend or family member when you are using a rideshare program;
  • While waiting for your ride, stay alert by avoiding distractions;
  • Ride in the backseat whenever possible;
  • Avoid poorly lit areas and;
  • Trust your instincts.

Garcia said in addition to letting her boyfriend know her location at all times, she also makes sure she leaves a hair strand behind or her fingerprints.
“Because if I'm ever going missing or anything, my DNA can be traced and they'll know that it was me and that I was in that situation, so it makes it easier to find me,” Garcia said.

Palanivelu said she always has someone on the phone with her.

“I always FaceTime friends when I'm walking in places that I don't feel safe in or if I'm in a sketchy rideshare maybe, or something like that," she said." I keep friends on the phone while I'm going to places.”

SDSU said students also have the option of using the SDSU Safe app to share their locations in real-time.

The suspect is described as a man in his mid-20s with tan skin and has an accent.

Authorities urge anyone with tips or information to call (619) 531-2210 Crime Stoppers at (888) 580-8477. and reference case #23037066.

Updated: August 28, 2023 at 3:09 PM PDT
Editor's Note: This is a developing story. Updates will be added as they become available.
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