PORTLAND, Ore. -- Civilians and police worked together Wednesday night to catch a sex offender accused of cutting a woman's hair on a TriMet bus and running away earlier this month.
Just hours before the arrest, TriMet had announced a $1,000 reward for the capture of 30-year-old Jared Weston Walter. Walter has been previously investigated, charged and convicted for similar activities, targeting women of all ages.
Walter appeared in court Thursday and pleaded not guilty to harassment and interfering with public transportation. The judge set bail at $100,000.
Wednesday night, Christian Coats was at a southeast Portland WalMart with his 7-year-old son, and says he had to think fast. He recognized the man known as the “Trimet Barber.”
“That guy walked out, and I recognized him right away He tried to shave his head or whatever. I guess he likes cutting hair so he cut his own hair.”
He said Walter took off, so Coats did the same, his son in tow, as Coats called the police. “I said he’s a bad guy!” He says he then dropped his son off with a nearby neighborhood family, and then, kept going.
“I didn't want him to come with me when I’m chasing bad guys. Not yet, anyway. He doesn't have his cape on!”
After an hour and a half, or so, and a chase through neighborhoods, he says he finally caught up to Walter near Lents Park. “He’s like, ‘I surrender, I give up, please don't hurt me.’ he was ready to give up by the time I cornered him.”
TriMet said what Coats did was brave, dangerous but much appreciated, and he was given the $1,000 reward.
A woman described the most recent attack to KGW.
The news comes as a relief to a woman who is one of the TriMet Barber’s victims. May 1, she rode the bus, and felt a tugging on her hair.
“I see this person really close in my space, so I turned around, and said ‘what the hell are you doing?’ And I see coming, out of the edge of his hoodie are a pair of scissors. So, I start screaming at him. Are you cutting my hair?!”
It’s an encounter that will be with her, forever. Today, she says she’s worried he’ll eventually do this again, and wants women to be extra vigilant, no matter what. But for now, she is so thankful to Coats for taking a stand.
“I want to say thank you to him, and just let him know, that he really helped me out. He really helped. A lot of people, including me, feel safer knowing this guy is not on the streets right now.”
Officers found Walter at 7:52 p.m. in the 4300 block of Southeast 89th Avenue and took him into custody.
“When you got people like that out there, he’s a sex offender, you gotta get him. You have all that adrenaline. I knew I had to get that guy,” Coats said.
"My family could really use the money, that thousand dollars. I mean I didn't do it for the money, I didn't even know about the reward, but I'll sure accept it!" Coats said.
Walter will be back in court in June. KGW spoke to a friend of his, who said Walter has some kind of fetish with women's hair and needs psychological help before he's released in the future.
In 2010, Walter was sentenced to 14 months in prison for clipping women's hair on TriMet buses around Portland. Other victims said Walter also put super glue in their hair.
In 2013, Walter was again arrested when police said that on at least three occasions he ejaculated into the hair of different women riding TriMet. He was sentenced to two years in prison for those charges but was released from custody in July 2014.
And then in 2014, Walter followed a woman into a Dollar Tree Store at the Oregon City Shopping Center and cut her hair with scissors.
"We will not tolerate this type of behavior on our transit system," said TriMet safety director Harry Saporta. "As this individual has clearly shown he will continue to re-offend despite repercussions, we will work closely with transit police and the district attorney's office to find this individual and seek the harshest penalty possible."
Saporta said while the maximum TriMet exclusion is six months, the agency is exploring a long-term ban that will keep Walter off of TriMet vehicles and property once he is caught.