A 55-year-old man arrested while attacking a woman in West Philadelphia is a suspect in four other assaults - including a rape - in and around University City in the past week, police say.
It was about 6:30 p.m. when officers near 41st and Pine when they spotted a man dragging a woman down the street, said Lt. John Walker, of Southwest Detectives. The officers arrested the man, who was wearing the same clothing as a suspect wanted in two indecent assaults of women earlier Thursday adjacent to Drexel University's campus, at 35th Street and Powelton Avenue, Walker said.
Maureen S. Rush, vice president for public safety at the University of Pennsylvania, said that campus police were able to obtain a good image of the suspect from video surveillance and that the image had been distributed to police in the area earlier Thursday.
The suspect is being eyed in a similar robbery on Saturday at 41st and Sansom streets, as well as in a robbery and sexual assault on Monday night at 47th and Chestnut streets, Walker said. Each attack, investigators said, had a similar modus operandi.
Besides the Drexel students, the victims include a woman in a Penn postdoctoral program and a graduate student, Rush said.
In Thursday night's attack, Walker said, the man approached the woman from behind as she was walking alone, bashed her in the head with a bicycle lock and demanded her purse.
The undercover officers, from the 18th District - headquartered at 55th and Pine streets - spotted him as he was dragging her and intervened, Walker said.
The man - identified as James Barrett in a notice posted on Drexel's website late Thursday night by Drexel Vice President for Public Safety Domenic Ceccanecchio - will be charged in Thursday night's attack while police gather evidence to file charges in the others, Walker said.
Police said they do not believe the five cases are related to a reported sexual assault of a Drexel student in an off-campus apartment in Mantua.
In that case, the 21-year-old woman told police that a stranger broke into her West Philadelphia apartment on Wednesday morning and raped her while threatening her with a meat cleaver from her kitchen.
Morgan Zalot is a Daily News reporter.
Robert Moran is an Inquirer staff writer.