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Boulder County attack: With three recent incidents, should nature lovers be worried?

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On Thursday, we told you about the second recent attack on a nature lover in the Boulder County area this month. Now, a third: a man and a woman were reportedly kidnapped by a rifle-wielding man over the weekend, but managed to escape.

How concerned should locals be? Commander Rick Brough of the Boulder County Sheriff's Office puts the situations in perspective.

As Brough points out, the first incident, involving an attack on a hiker, took place on the Foothills Trail -- and a suspect, Michael Gonzales-Davis, was taken into custody in relation to it. The second, in contrast, occurred along the Boulder Creek Path, and the suspect has been described as Asian.

This weekend's assault, meanwhile "was off the Peak to Peak Highway between Ward and Nederland," Brough notes. "There's quite a distance between there and the first ones, which were more around the City of Boulder."

Moreover, Brough continues, witnesses in the Peak to Peak matter describe the attacker as a white male who wore a green, Army-style shirt, camouflage shorts, a floppy Army cap, black boots and a black bandanna covering part of his face.

That's not to suggest, however, that folks venturing into the great outdoors don't need to take precautions before venturing forth.

"With the nice weather, and with us getting near a holiday, you have more people out and about," Brough says. "And when you go hiking, there's a tendency to be isolated, and that could present an opportunity for somebody. So you always have to be vigilant -- and you shouldn't go hiking by yourself, and not just for those reasons. If you fall and hurt yourself and you're with someone, they can go get help."

Being paired up apparently didn't prevent the pair in the latest case -- a 44-year-old Berthoud man and a 32-year-old Fort Collins woman -- from being victimized. According to reports, the couple were confronted by the aforementioned suspect, who fired a shot at them and then secured them to trees. The man was able to escape and contact authorities, who discovered the woman unhurt by her vehicle; she'd been released.

To put it mildly, these circumstances are "very unusual," Brough says -- but they can't be dismissed. "Stories take strange twists sometimes, and you always have to stay open-minded," he allows. Moreover, "since this incident happened, we've had other people come forward to say they saw a man carrying a rifle who looked very similar to what our victims are telling us. So that adds a lot of credibility."

Indeed, BCSO representatives have gotten enough information from various eyewitnesses that they hope to release a composite sketch of the alleged kidnapper, perhaps as early as this afternoon.

"This is a high-priority investigation," Brough stresses. "Hopefully, we'll come up with something that leads to this guy soon."

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