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MAN ACCOSTS GIRLS AT SCHOOL

With help from surveillance, police search for the man who confronted girls.

Police are searching for a man who sneaked into St. Petersburg High School on Tuesday afternoon and groped a girl who was walking to volleyball practice.

Police say the man also confronted a girl as she changed clothes in a bathroom and made a lewd comment to her.

Later that day, one of the girls also saw the man at Northeast High School. She alerted school officials, but the man got away.

The man got into St. Petersburg High about 3 p.m. after classes had ended, though school officials don't know how. Principal Al Bennett called parents Friday to report the incident and ensure them that officials would focus on keeping the campus secure after hours.

The girls confronted by the man are both 15. Neither girl was injured.

Police had not identified the man by Friday, but released surveillance video taken of him in hopes it would lead to tips from the public. Police do not believe he is a student. Witnesses described him as between 18 and 25 years old.

Police on Thursday arrested a man on charges that he stalked an 11-year-old girl at a St. Petersburg bus stop, but investigators do not believe he is the man who sneaked into the high schools.

The first incident at St. Petersburg High occurred as one of the girls changed clothes in a bathroom. As she changed, she noticed someone was in the stall next to her. Moments later, the stall door opened and a man approached her and made a lewd comment, according to St. Petersburg police.

The man fled, but not before encountering the second girl. Police say he inappropriately touched the teen.

About 90 minutes later, the victim from the bathroom incident saw the man at Northeast High while she was on campus for swim practice.

A Northeast staff member confronted the man, but he fled.

"I do think this is an anomaly that this happened," said Sgt. Katy Connor-Dubina, who leads the St. Petersburg Police Department's crimes against children unit. "We just don't have this happen everyday."

The suspect is described as white or Hispanic, about 5 feet 6and 145 pounds. He has close-cut dark hair, bushy eyebrows and a slender to medium build. He had a 5 o'clock shadow, though his most distinctive feature is a large nose.

Video cameras at both schools captured the man's image. He was seen walking in a hallway at St. Petersburg High, and seemingly wandering back and forth from double doors to a fountain in a hallway at Northeast High School. It's also unclear how he got into that school.

"Our position is that it's not happenstance," said Connor-Dubina. "There's got to be a connection with this guy and these two schools."

The incidents happened at a time when there was still quite a lot of activity on campus, said Andrea Zahn, a spokeswoman for Pinellas County schools.

In the earlier bus stop stalking case, police said Luis Alberto Colon, 24, of 2936 27th Ave. N followed and harassed an 11- year-old girl as she walked to and from the bus stop

Kameel Stanley can be reached at (727) 893-8643 or kstanley@sptimes.com.

WHOM TO CONTACT

See the video

Anyone with information about the man who sneaked into St. Petersburg and Northeast high schools on Tuesday can call St. Petersburg police at (727) 893-7780. To see the full surveillance video tapes, go video.tampabay.com.

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