Female jogger in Seattle uses self-defense tactics to fend off brutal assault

Kelly Herron took a self-defense class just three weeks before the attack.

ByABC News
March 10, 2017, 10:52 AM

— -- Days after repelling a brutal attack while out for a run at a park in Seattle, one jogger has gotten her stride back.

Kelly Herron, 36, spoke to ABC News about how a day of marathon training turned into a runner's nightmare and how she countered the attack the moment, she said, she realized "this doesn't have to be a fair fight."

Four miles into what was supposed to be a 10-mile run through the popular Golden Gardens park on Sunday, Herron stopped to use a public restroom.

"As I was drying my hands, I became aware that something was wrong," she said. When she turned around, she said, she saw a man standing in the bathroom. At that point, according to police, Gary Steiner — a 40-year-old registered sex offender in Arizona — assaulted her.

"He immediately took me down to the ground, hit both my knees and legs, and then it was a fight on the bathroom floor, and I just kept screaming, 'Not today, m-----f-----,'" she said. She repeatedly screamed the phrase at him throughout the attack, and she said it became her "battle cry."

She recalled that at one point in the agonizing ordeal, she was able to escape from her attacker into a bathroom stall but was able to keep him at bay only momentarily.

"I got into that stall, flipped on my back, and I tried to kick the door lock shut with my foot," Herron said. But she missed the lock and jammed the door. Steiner entered the stall from the side and, she said, "started beating me in the face with his hand."

She had a moment of clarity when she realized, she said, "this doesn't have to be a fair fight" and began to scratch his face.

"All those little things that I learned in my life ... how to punch and everything came back to me," she said. "I started to feel like I was going to lose consciousness ... but I got another surge of adrenaline, and I reached for the door and was able to get out."

Herron said a passerby outside the bathroom had a carabiner on hand that they used to lock Steiner in the bathroom.

She posted a photo of her bruises and stitches to Instagram as a badge of her brave escape.

Herron said she was able to employ self-defense tactics that she learned in a class just three weeks earlier.

"I learned hard bones and soft fleshy places, so I just started hitting the side of his head," she said.

Jordan Giarratano, an instructor at Fighting Chance Seattle who has taught self-defense for over 20 years, told ABC News, "This is one of the most surreal things I've ever seen ... in the four years I've been running this workshop. It's very inspiring and overwhelming and humbling."

One survey in Runner's World magazine found that 43 percent of women experience harassment while running. Unlike in Herron's case, most incidents are not life-threatening, but in a nine-day stretch last summer, three women in three states were murdered while running.

Giarratano told ABC News that people who are attacked should trust their intuition, be loud, fight as hard as possible, respond immediately and hit with an open hand.

Herron said she feels empowered after her experience and is still training to run the Seattle Rock and Roll Marathon this summer.

Steiner has an assault record against multiple women dating to the 1990s, according to authorities.

He is being held in jail on $750,000 bail and faces charges of attempted rape in the second degree and second degree assault, according to court documents. His public defender did not reply to ABC News' request for comment.