A 19-year-old man who sexually assaulted a student in a bathroom at Lakewood High School climbed a fence to get onto the campus not long after he attacked another woman on a Bellflower street Friday, authorities said at a news conference Sunday afternoon.
Joshua Cooper of Bellflower was arrested Saturday on suspicion of assault with the intent to commit rape, robbery and attempted rape, according to Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department spokeswoman Deputy Trina Schrader. He was taken into custody without incident on a Bellflower street at 3:40 p.m after a Lakewood Sheriff’s deputy identified him.
Authorities said the first incident happened at 10 a.m. on the 9200 block of Palm Street in Bellflower. Cooper allegedly approached a 29-year-old woman from behind as she was walking home.
“The suspect attacked the victim, sexually assaulted her and took the victim’s cell phone before fleeing the scene,” Schrader said.
Cooper fled when a neighbor came outside and spooked him, Sheriff’s Special Victims Bureau Capt. Carlos Marquez said.
The second incident happened at Lakewood High School at about 12:30 p.m. The student was using the restroom when Cooper sexually assaulted her, authorities said. He allegedly fled when a school employee entered the bathroom.
Cooper has no known affiliation with the school, authorities said.
Lakewood Sheriff’s Capt. Richard Harpham said the suspect was able to enter and exit the high school by scaling a fence.
While the height of the fences vary throughout the campus, most of the fences are over 10 feet, Harpham said. The school also has a school resource officer on site, security at the entrances and exits, and security cameras.
“I’m very familiar with the high school,” said Harpham, who has been coaching football there for the last seven years. “It’s a secure campus but there’s never a guarantee, 100 percent security. You’re never going to have that.”
Harpham said authorities will take another look at security measures to see if “things can be done better.”
Detectives were able to identify Cooper after they obtained video surveillance, but that footage and any other image of Cooper is being withheld while the investigation continues and more victims potentially emerge, Marquez said.
Authorities said Cooper was out on bond for a burglary he allegedly committed in Whittier. He has a history of arrests related to theft, but officials said he has no previous criminal record related to sexual assaults.
Cooper is scheduled to appear in court on Wednesday, Sept. 5 in the Bellflower Courthouse. His bail is currently set at $220,000.
Anyone with information about this incident is encouraged to contact the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, Special Victims Bureau tip line at 877-710-5273 or by email at [email protected].
This story has been updated with more details on the incidents and suspect.