Metropolitan Police officers are searching for a maintenance worker accused of attempting to sexually assault a GW student Monday night in an off-campus apartment building.
The man forced his way into a female student’s Potomac Park apartment at 510 21st St. around 6:20 p.m. Monday after he told her he was there to make a repair, MPD Sgt. Joe Gentile said. After he entered the apartment, the man attempted to rape the woman but fled after a struggle, Gentile said.
Police have identified the man as Efrain Antonio Ramirez, a contracted worker at Potomac Park. MPD has issued a warrant for his arrest, charging him with first-degree attempted sexual abuse. Police searched his Fairfax County, Va., apartment Tuesday and removed evidence.
Ramirez is described as a 32-year-old, 5-9 Hispanic male, weighing 180 pounds with brown eyes and black hair. Police said the suspect may have a cut on the middle finger of his left hand.
The 21-year-old victim was taken to GW Hospital for treatment and released.
Bernstein Management, which runs both Potomac Park and the nearby York apartment building, said Ramirez was working as a painter in the building. He was contracted from MSC Construction in Virginia.
“It’s a very unfortunate incident, and we are very concerned about it,” said Susan Mullen, Bernstein’s vice president for property management. “But I don’t see how we could have changed what happened. I don’t feel we were negligent.”
Mullen said Bernstein has worked with MSC for six years but would not comment on the future of their relationship. She said Bernstein would look closely at MSC’s hiring practices.
A representative from MSC Construction said Ramirez was terminated after the incident. But the spokesman refused to make any further comments.
Residents of the building, which is just beyond campus boundaries, said they were shocked the incident involved someone who had access to the building.
“It makes me very nervous that the person had authorization in the building,” said Erin Ward, a senior and Potomac Park resident. “It makes me not want to call a maintenance worker in the building.”
Ward said some of the maintenance workers in the building are familiar by face and name, but others, including some who work at the front desk, rotate often. She said if a maintenance worker had knocked on her door, she would have let him in.
“You can’t trust somebody that you think is OK,” Ward said.
John Abishahin, a junior and two-year Potomac Park resident, said he plans to move out of the building because of the lack of security.
“I’ve been concerned about security for a while,” Abishahin said. He said some apartments do not have chain locks on their doors, and many residents allow strangers into the building.
Many residents said until this year, the front door did not require a key. Instead, residents entered a code into a numeric keypad. But residents said many outsiders knew the code and could enter the building. A lock was installed, but Abishahin said the door often does not close all the way.
Mullen said she spoke to building residents Tuesday, and they did not express security concerns. She said Potomac Park’s security is as good as other buildings in the area “and in some cases superior.”
But Ward said security in Potomac Park is lacking.
“In other buildings, they have doormen that sit there 24 hours a day and guests have to be signed in,” she said. “There is someone who watches.”
She said workers in the Potomac Park’s office cannot see the front door and are only in the office during business hours.
University Police Director Dolores Stafford said students should learn a valuable lesson from the incident.
“Obviously, they shouldn’t just let someone in,” Stafford said. “They need to call the main office and verify he is supposed to be there.”