Runners advocate for group runs, self-defense classes following Florida jogger attacks

A man accused of attacking a woman who was out jogging Monday night in Altamonte Springs, Florida is now in jail. The Seminole County Sheriff’s Office said 19-year-old William Stamper, of Longwood, is responsible for that crime. 

Stamper was arrested and booked into the John E. Polk Correctional Facility on one count of attempted sexual battery, the sheriff's office said early Wednesday. The charge, including the word "attempted," may have been different were it not for a neighbor who heard the victim screaming for help and called 911. 

The victim told deputies she was aware she was being followed and took out her earbuds to better hear her follower’s footsteps. That wasn’t enough, however – the sheriff’s office said Stamper charged her and tackled her from behind. The police report states he started rubbing his body against her and Sheriff Dennis Lemma says she could feel that the attacker was aroused.

This is only the latest attack of this nature. FOX 35 just reported two weeks ago about a jogger who fought off an attacker in Orlando. 19-year-old Israel Pagan was arrested for that crime a few days later

Self-defense experts say the situational awareness to remove her earbuds was a great start. However, there are other steps to take if you are attacked. 

Self-Defense Expert Jon Burke considers training like that an insurance policy.

"We pray we never need it. The best insurance you could ever have, be able to protect yourself and never need it."

He points out, you want health insurance before you’re sick; you want car insurance before you’re in a crash. Thus, he says you should learn self-defense tactics before you’re attacked. 

"Learning to fight means you’re learning to stay involved in a physical conflict, stay engaged, or choose to engage in a physical conflict. What we focus on is, protect yourself, dismantle the threat if you can, distract, then get away."

MMA Fighter Myla Hill trains at Burke’s studio, 6 Levels Orlando. 

"Training self-defense, jiu-jitsu, it definitely empowers me," said Hill. "I’m not the biggest person, but I feel definitely bigger than I look when I know these skills and have the technical background to defend myself."

"What we teach in Gracie Jiu-Jitsu is leverage-based system," explained Burke. "It teaches people how to use their natural ability, size, frame, leverage to make themselves – if this is them and this is their attacker – make themselves equal to or greater than their attacker for a moment to protect and get away."

Orlando Police released surveillance video Wednesday that they say shows a man following a woman to her apartment, where they say he attacked and robbed her. 

There have been several attacks on joggers recently too.

19-year-old William Stamper was denied bond Wednesday in Seminole County after being accused of attempted sexual battery on a jogger.

19-year-old Israel Pagan is charged with the same thing after being accused of trying to rape a woman in Orange County two weeks ago.

In January, a teenager in Cocoa Beach was arrested and accused of trying to murder a jogger. 

The news has runners like Savannah Wechsler on edge. 

"It’s something that, not only as a woman but as a runner you have to live with and be aware of. It’s an unfortunate and terrifying fact to know going on any run that it could be you or someone that you know."

Bailey Welch participates in group runs with Wechsler. She also works at Track Shack Orlando, an athletic supply store. 

"At the store, we actually sold out of mace and had to get another shipment in, so people are wanting to be prepared for something to happen."

There are group running clubs all over Florida. 

"Going in a group is a lot of fun – not only the community, but you do feel a lot safer, said Wechsler.

"Getting a group of people together – whether you’re all running the same pace or not – as long as you’re in eye distance of each other, you’re going to be a lot safer than going out by yourself," added Welch. 

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The Orlando Police Department taught a women's self-defense course at the Track Shack in Orlando (Photo: Track Shack)

Several law enforcement agencies offer free self-defense courses. Track Shack hosted the Orlando Police Department at their store for women’s self-defense training, for instance. 

Track Shack participates in group runs every week. There are many across the region. You can see a list here