SAN ANTONIO - San Antonio police are still hunting for a suspect accused of sexually assaulting a woman at Phil Hardberger Park.
But runners who frequent the north-side park won't let fear keep them away. On Sunday, hundreds traded in that fear for survival skills.
"My hope is to create a crowd of very, very dangerous people so that any predator will think twice about coming back to Hardberger Park," said San Antonio City Councilman Manny Pelaez, who helped organize the free self-defense class alongside District 9 Councilman John Courage.
For 90 minutes inside Hardberger Park, a lively group of men and women sharpened their self-defense skills and learned new ways to fight a predator, free of charge.
"To be aware of what you're doing, not to wear headphones in your ears so you can't hear what's going on, to wear clothing that's appropriate so if you have to run, you can run, how to address people you see in the parkway and tell them 'Stop!' Identify those people," said Captain Tracy Powers of the San Antonio Police Department's Prue Road Substation.
The Rape Crisis Center was also on hand along with defensive moves taught by Kenseido United States Headquarters Dojo School.
"I am training today more than 100, 150 bad-asses," Pelaez said. "We are here to kick some ass and never, ever, ever give anybody the impression that we are weak and we're easy to be preyed upon."
Police say that the assault happened on Tuesday at 8:30 a.m.
The victim says that she was walking on a trail when a man came from behind, grabbed her, pulled her into a heavily wooded area, then attacked.
"I'm young, I'm single, I live alone. I don't own a car, so I walk a lot of places. So I just wanted to make sure that I'm aware of my surroundings and I'm able to protect myself," said Ametra Williams, who attended the event.
"When I'm in this class, he's explaining it so you understand that your power needs to come from within you. So whatever fear you have needs to turn into something else, like survival," participant Tinker Mass Schultz said. "There are 200-plus women here today. So if that doesn't send a message out to the folks out there thinking they're gonna do something bad to us, let me tell you, you don't wanna mess with the women coming out of this class."
Thousands of people visit Hardberger Park every day, Pelaez said, but morning runners also noted that the usual crowd has dwindled.
Until further notice, police will be out in force around the area and inside the park.
"San Antonio is probably one of the safest cities there is in the nation," Cpt. Powers said. "The fact is, things like this do happen. Sexual assaults, sexual attacks happen anywhere, anytime and we can never be 100 percent safe."
"Don't mess with us! We got the skills, the training, and we will fight back!" Williams exclaimed.
Authorities remind park-goers to remain vigilant, especially when alone. Run when it's well lit and go with a buddy if you can.
If you experience an emergency situation when enjoying San Antonio parks, call 9-1-1.
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