A female runner who was grabbed from behind Sunday on a trail near Libertyville was able to fend off the attacker in what police say was an isolated "crime of opportunity."
"She fought him off," said John Tannahill, chief of the Lake County Forest Preserve District's Ranger Police.
The 22-year-old woman elbowed the attacker in the ribs, a quick reaction that allowed her to break free. She and the man then ran from the spot just off the Des Plaines River Trail underpass of Route 176 east of Libertyville, Tannahill said.
The attacker was described as white, 22 to 30 years old, with short black hair and in "pretty good physical shape," he added.
"We have some pretty good video of who we think the suspect is," Tannahill said.
According to police, the runner was heading west on the North Shore Bike Path, which essentially is a lane on Route 176 at that point, and went onto a spur that connects to the Des Plaines River Trail below to continue north.
With the trail at the underpass flooded, the runner was scrambling around the rocks and bridge support to avoid the water when she was grabbed.
Tannahill said the attacker probably was driving by in a car and saw the runner on Route 176. The theory is he parked at a nearby business and went down to the trail area to wait for her, he added.
"We feel this is an isolated event where a suspect saw a target of opportunity and acted on it," Tannahill said.
"We have a real safe preserve and trail system. I don't believe there is anybody stalking runners. It was an isolated, single event (and) a crime of opportunity."
The woman scraped her knees and lower legs during the scuffle.
Clothing was collected as evidence, but investigators are focused on the video from the business.
"We see him run from the vehicle to the trail. Then, a few minutes later, you see him jumping in his car and taking off," Tannahill said.
"We're running down leads. It's one of those things -- we don't have an ongoing issue," he added.
Anyone with information should call Tannahill at (847) 968-3405 or email him at jtannahill@LCFPD.org.
While trails are considered safe, those using the forest preserve or community trail systems should carry a cellphone and walk with a friend when possible, authorities said.
"The reality is you have to be aware of your surroundings," Tannahill said.
Police say trail users should secure items in a car trunk before they arrive or take them with when leaving the vehicle. Park in a well-lighted area, visible to pedestrian and vehicular traffic, when possible, lock the car, close all windows and take the keys, authorities add.
A Preserve Watch program encourages visitors to help rangers keep an eye on land and trail systems by immediately reporting any unusual or unlawful activity on forest preserve property.
Call 911 in an emergency or (847) 968-3411 for nonemergency. You can also call the Lake County sheriff's office at (847) 549-5200 and ask to speak to a forest preserve ranger.