Second trail runner in two weeks targeted on W&OD trail in Loudoun County

Leesburg, Va. — An attempted assault on an off-duty Loudoun County Sheriff’s deputy running along the Washington and Old Dominion Trail Thursday morning is the second incident to raise concern about safety over the last week.

The woman was running alone around 6:30 a.m. between King St. and Valley View Ave. when she spotted a man holding a box cutter coming towards her.

The woman was able to turn around and run the other way before encountering the man. He eventually ran off the opposite way initiating a search by Leesburg Police, the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office and Fairfax County Police. Tracking dogs and a helicopter used in the search were not successful.

The incident comes on the heels of an attack last week on the W&OD trail in Sterling. In that case a woman reported being taken to the ground by two men before being scared away possibly by the presence of a nearby cyclist.

The trail through Leesburg was still heavily used Thursday night despite the attempted assault.

“When I cycle or run here I normally see another person coming one way or another so the opportunity to do something like this seems unlikely,” said Dave Slupe, a regular on the W&OD.

Other users says the report is enough to keep them off the trail if they’re exercising alone. Judy Wasco said it worries her that her daughter, who is in college, used the trail so much throughout the summer.

“I can't tell you the number of mornings she was out of this trail this summer and she usually does run by herself so that's a little bit upsetting and just a call for all of us to be a little more cautious,” said Wasco.

Police said being cautious on the trails includes always having an escape plan. They also recommend running with someone else or other people. Always telling someone where you plan on running and how long you plan on being gone are other good safety measures.

Police also recommend taking a cell phone with you on your run or walk along a trail.