NORTH OF MONTANA — Polly Wilson was enjoying a late-night stroll in Palisades Park with her friend Ashley Olson and their dogs Kegger and Sol when they heard something that made them stop in their tracks.

“We heard a woman screaming bloody murder,” Wilson said.

She ran with her St. Bernard across Ocean Avenue toward the woman’s screams and found two people struggling inside a parked car on Palisades Avenue around 11:30 p.m. Wilson was witnessing what police said was an attempted carjacking and possible sexual assault.

“I saw this man on top of her and her face was all bloody,” Wilson said. “I yelled at him, ‘Get off her or else my dog will kill you.’”

The man complied, Wilson said, and Olson called Santa Monica police. Officers arrived on scene to find Wilson, Olson, their dogs and other bystanders surrounding the car, keeping the suspect inside.

The bystanders “stepped it up,” and the victim “had the wherewithal and the ability to fight off the attacker,” SMPD Lt. Darrell Lowe said in an interview Friday.

Prior to the attack, the woman had been sitting in her car talking on her phone when the suspect approached the driver side door and tried to make contact with the woman. The victim erroneously assumed that the man was a panhandler, waving him off, and it was at this time that the suspect pulled the car door open and began to attack her, Lowe said.

Officers arrested the suspect and he was booked on attempted carjacking charges. Lowe said the case should be presented to the District Attorney’s Office on Monday and additional charges could be filed.

Lowe said the SMPD doesn’t recommend residents apprehend suspects on their own, saying that each person must decide for themselves if they are willing to take the risk by thoroughly assessing the situation.

Residents are encouraged to always be aware of their surroundings, especially when walking alone at night.

“I often hear people say that because they are in Santa Monica, living north of Montana or on Main Street, that they think it’s safe,” Wilson, a life-long resident, said. “Well, it’s not. People need to watch their backs. You never know who can jump out at you.”

kevinh@smdp.com

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