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U of M student says she saw creepy cop impersonator on West Bank earlier this month

A student says she saw the suspect outside Andersen Library about 10 days before he was connected with two sexual assaults.
A student says she saw the suspect outside Andersen Library about 10 days before he was connected with two sexual assaults.

Last night, Rochelle Merrifield was watching a TV news report about the cop impersonator linked to two sexual assaults that occurred last weekend, including one near Dinkytown, when she realized she might've seen the suspect on November 13.

THE BACKSTORY: U of M released wrong photo of alleged West Bank gunman

Merrifield, a 32-year-old Eastern Studies major, says she was walking toward a bus stop through the West Bank at 9:08 p.m. that evening when she came across a suspicious-looking SUV that she assumed belonged to some sort of security guard.

Here's how Merrifield described what she saw:

I was walking from class headed towards the bus stop on Washington and 19th. I went through the grass on the east side of the Andersen Library (heading north) and turned left (heading west). Between the Andersen Library and Willey Hall there was an unmarked black SUV parked on 21st Avenue.

I thought it was a strange place for an unmarked SUV. As I approached the black SUV an African American male (approximately 5'9''-5'10'') got out of the driver's side back seat and got into the driver's side front seat. The African American male had what appeared to be a security uniform on -- not a cop uniform -- that consisted of a black jacket, black pants, and a cop type hat with a brim and badge on the front.

The man had a chin-strap type beard and medium color black skin. His body type would be best described as skinny.

Merrified told City Pages she got the vibe the man was "sketched out" to see her walking by him. Her suspicions were further aroused by the fact that just days earlier, a gunman attempted an armed robbery of a student in Andersen (that suspect still hasn't been arrested either). She said she thought about taking a photo of the vehicle, but couldn't because her phone was dead. So she stayed 10 to 15 feet away from the SUV and kept walking.

Soon, she was surrounded by law school students and the vaguely sketchy incident faded from memory -- until she saw last night's news.

Merrifield said she contacted the media with her story in part because she hopes officials might be able to use her very specific account of when and where she saw the suspect to review surveillance footage that could help identify him. She said she contacted the MPD's tip line with her story, but was dismayed to discover the line's voicemail system only gave her enough time to leave her name and phone number and briefly mention what incident her tip pertained to.

-- Follow Aaron Rupar on Twitter at @atrupar. Got a tip? Drop him a line at arupar@citypages.com.


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