A fitness club employee in Escondido told police she was attacked by a man who hid in the gym until after closing time.
The woman was getting ready to close up the LA Fitness on El Norte Parkway Tuesday night when she says the man jumped out and punched her, knocking her to the ground, according to investigators.
As the man tried to pull at her clothing, the woman said she fought back.
The suspect fled, and Escondido police launched an extensive search overnight, which included the sheriff's department's ASTREA helicopter.
Police are now working on a composite sketch of the suspect. He was described as Hispanic, about 35 to 45 years old, 5-foot 5-inches tall, overweight with a shaved head, a tattoo of a teardrop over his left eye and a tattoo of a cross on the ring finger of his left hand.
He was wearing a white tank top, black shorts, black high-top tennis shoes and white knee-high socks, police said.
The victim suffered minor cuts and scrapes. She was treated and released from Palomar Medical Center.
Officials described the attack as making sexual comments and groping or grabbing an area that would be inappropriate.
Gym members and staff were shocked to hear about the assault.
"It’s a safe, newly renovated gym. Excellent members. Amazing people who work here. I wouldn’t have expected it to happen," said Heather Harshman, who teaches fitness classes. "I feel very bad for the woman and hope she’s doing OK."
“It’s alarming. It’s concerning, but you take precautions to be more careful. But I’m not going to change what I do, how I live my life. But yeah, it’s a concern,” Karen Bjorn said.
Police aren't sure if the suspect belonged to the gym. If he didn't, members question how he got inside.
“I’ve never walked inside without being asked for this,” Gary Greetis said, holding up his membership card. “I’ve never walked in that place when someone wasn’t at the desk.”
Construction is currently taking place inside the gym.
LA Fitness Escondido had no comment on the incident.
Anyone with information is asked to call the Escondido Police Investigation Division at (760) 839-4717. Information can also be left anonymously by calling the Escondido Police tip line at (760) 743-8477 or by going to the EPD website.