HPD says man wore face covering during sex assault

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Houston police are searching for a man who wore a COVID-19 face mask as he ambushed and sexually assaulted a woman in her home.

Police say the incident happened the night of Feb. 24. Surveillance video from the scene captured the man drive into the Fleetwood neighborhood off Memorial Drive near Highway 6.

Houston police Lt. Tim Trometer told ABC13 this was a planned and targeted attack saying, "It appears to us that there was some motivation that he had that house in mind and that's a specific house he wanted to go target."

Trometer said the suspect used a stolen license plate on the white Nissan Sentra and got the license plate from a car less than 15 minutes before entering the victim's neighborhood.

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Video shows the suspect park his car in the 800 block of Fleetwood Drive. He then locks his car and walks down the street to the home.

Trometer said after a failed attempt to break in through a window, the suspect waited in the woman's backyard for more than an hour before ambushing her as she stepped outside to feed a feral cat.

"That's when the suspect rushes into the [victim's] house by grabbing the [victim] and he held a gun to her head," said Trometer. "The suspect immediately tied up the [victim]. He did sexually assault the [victim] and then took property from the residence."

The suspect was seen driving away around 9:40 p.m. Neighbors say the crime is alarming for an area that rarely sees this type of violence.

"I'm shocked. I've never heard of anything happening in this neighborhood," said resident Yufei Xiao.

And they're worried about finding a man with a hidden face.

"It's alarming because this is supposed to protect us, it's supposed to be a barrier between us and other people and it's sad that the barrier is being used for something wrong," said resident Juan Zaldano.

Trometer said COVID-19 face coverings are not a new challenge but are now more common.

"Before bandanas, other types of face coverings, ski masks, things of that nature were also used," he said.

If you recognize the man behind the mask or have information on this crime you can call crime stoppers anonymously at 713-222-TIPS.

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