IRVINE, Calif. (KABC) -- The stabbing of a University of California Irvine student who was out walking her dog was a sexual assault attempt, police said.
The 22-year-old student was attacked from behind Sunday night and stabbed at least twice by a large man wearing a dark hoodie, investigators said.
Initial reports described the attack as just a stabbing. But now police say they determined the suspect also tried to tear off the woman's clothes.
"A struggle ensued and the suspect struck her in the head and stabbed her," UCI spokesman Tom Vasich said. "Later UCI police learned that the assailant attempted to forcibly remove the victim's clothing."
It appears the student put up a fight and the suspect fled on foot.
At the time, she had been walking her dog about a mile from the university campus in the 33000 block of Arroyo Drive. That area is filled with off-campus student apartments.
The attack has struck fear into the campus, located in a city that year-after-year is deemed statistically one of the safest in the country for its size.
"It's really scary especially here, like this is supposed to be one of the safest cities in California," said student Jesse Silletto.
Silletto and other students got a text message warning them there was an attack near the campus.
"It's just scary to get a text like that, especially with no follow up if he was found," she said.
The campus was briefly locked down as police searched for the attacker.
And now authorities are reminding students to be aware of their surroundings at all times, especially at night, and to report anything suspicious to campus police or call 911.
Extra school police patrols can also be seen around campus as the search continues for the suspect.
"It's scary but we have UCI PD and they are always on the watch," said student Pulkid Budhwl.
Stabbing of UCI student was sexual assault attempt, police say