LONG BEACH, Calif. (KABC) -- A brazen sexual assault in downtown Long Beach is highlighting a problem with the homeless and mentally ill that has become all too common in the area.
Local residents say transients are forced to get off the Metro rail line there every night, leading to a concentration of violent attacks in the same area.
The latest example came Friday around 2 p.m. A woman was walking near the corner of Broadway and Linden when she passed by a transient sitting on the sidewalk.
As she walks by, he stands up and, with his pants unzipped, approaches her from behind and lifts up her skirt, rubbing up against her. He then shoves her to the ground.
"I can only call him demon-possessed looking," said Dan McIntyre, who witnessed the attack. "His face was grimaced and his tongue was working in and out of his mouth. He was just terrible looking."
After witnessing the attack, McIntyre jumped up and approached the man with pepper spray, but he ran off.
The victim, Rebekah Pedersen, says she saw the transient and made sure she walked around him. That's when she felt something behind her, but didn't think she was being followed by the man.
"Next thing I know, I feel my dress being lifted up all the way," she said. "I feel him right here on my neck and next thing I know he grabs my hips."
"I couldn't break away, so I just turned really quick to kind of break his grip, and then he pushed me to the ground," Pedersen added.
Long Beach arrested the suspect a short time later. He was identified as Miguel Avila, 30.
Pedersen says she wants to see justice served and to prevent something like this from happening again. She says she worries for her safety and plans on getting a gun license, in addition to having a Taser.
"I want that guy in jail, so that he doesn't go and actually rape somebody," she said.
Long Beach Mayor Rex Richardson said he is asking police for an enhanced focus on downtown. He is also seeking more county government help for those with drug and mental issues.
Richardson addressed the assault at Tuesday's city council meeting.
"I want to express, first, my sympathy to the survivor of the assault and my appreciation for the good Samaritan who stepped up," the mayor said.
Richardson added the city will continue to focus on homelessness and public safety.
People who work in the area say the Metro line contributes significantly to the problem when it forces transients on the train to get off in downtown Long Beach every night.
"It just seems ridiculous to us that they would force everyone off the last four trains every night and just dump them on the streets," said Long Beach resident Joe Harding.
Harding said there have been multiple violent attacks on workers and residents in the area.
"The shop owner around the corner was hit in the head with a vodka bottle and split her head open with 11 staples and broken teeth after she fought back," he said.