Young female swimmer assaulted on downtown skywalk stairs

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DES MOINES, Iowa — A weekend swim meet turned horrifying in the downtown Des Moines skywalk stairs in between the MidAmerican Energy Company Aquatic Center and Wellmark YMCA.

“They were having a swim meet at the downtown YMCA on Saturday. There was a nine-year-old girl who had simply left her guardian’s side for just a second to go get a snack,” said Des Moines Police Department Sergeant Paul Parizek.

Police say that around 1:00 p.m. Saturday the female athlete was allegedly attacked by 34-year old homeless man Carter Woodruff. “As she’s going to do that she needs to go down some stairs and the suspect was in the stairs and physically grabbed her, threw her on the ground and put his hand over her mouth when she started screaming for help,” said Parizek.

The scream scared Woodruff enough to make him let go and for the child to escape but nearby technology and the victim’s grandmother capturing his photo helped assure Woodruff’s freedom didn’t last long. “Surveillance photos from the area helped identify him,” said Parizek.

Woodruff was quickly charged with assault causing bodily harm. “The actions are pretty obvious that they are horrifying. We are not convinced yet that he didn’t have the intent to do more so we are far from done investigating this,” Parizek said. He added, “There is no adult other than the person arrested who did anything wrong here. We all do it as parents and there are certain places we look at as safe spaces and tournaments are one of them.”

A letter from the Des Moines Swimming Federation was sent to parents Saturday evening saying in part, “Please talk to your athlete about these important safety measures so the buddy system is top of mind for them when they are at the Y.”

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