Fifteen minutes after a woman fought off a man who beat her while trying to steal her purse early Sunday morning in downtown Palo Alto, a nearby woman also was attacked -- likely by the same suspect -- police said.
Palo Alto police said they received a call from the second woman, who reported that she had just been beaten at around 1:20 a.m.; officers arrived about a minute later.
The woman, who is in her 70s, was sleeping in a vacant business' alcove on the 300 block of University Avenue. She woke up when a man reached into the pockets of her outer clothing, police said. The man said he was looking for money and the woman shoved him away.
The man then punched the woman several times in the head, face and chest before running away, police said. The suspect did not take anything and did not have a weapon, police said.
The woman had moderate injuries to her face and was treated by Palo Alto fire personnel before a Palo Alto officer drove her to a nearby hospital for further evaluation.
The suspect remains at large and is described as between 18 to 22 years old, 5 feet 6 inches tall with a thin build, and was wearing a dark sweatshirt with a gray hood.
Police say they believe he is the same person who tried to rob a woman on the 200 block of Homer Avenue because of the timeframe, the proximity of the crimes and the actions of the suspect in both incidents, though the victims' descriptions of the suspect differ.
At about 1 a.m., a woman in her 30s, was shoved to the ground by the suspect, who then tried to take her purse. The woman held onto her purse and fought back while the man punched her about eight times before running away. The woman briefly chased the man before yelling for help at the police department's garage. Officers did not find the suspect.
The suspect in the Homer Avenue attack was described as a black man in his 20s or 30s, taller than 6 feet and wearing a dark or black long-sleeved hooded sweatshirt or jacket and dark pants.
Officers are increasing patrols in the area in response to the attacks, and detectives are investigating. Anyone with information about either attack is asked to call 650-329-2413; suspicious behavior should be immediately reported by calling 911.