ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Police investigators are praising staff at a Florida bar for rescuing a woman who was allegedly being sexually assaulted in a restroom.
According to St. Petersburg police, Jarrod Kennedy Matchett lured the female victim into the bathroom at The Dog Bar St. Pete Sunday afternoon.
Investigators say the man and woman met that day and had been bar-hopping beforehand.
“They went into the restroom together,” said Yolanda Fernandez with the police department. “At that point, things changed.”
WFTS learned the victim used her cell phone to send an urgent message to the bar’s Facebook page while the violent attack was underway.
Management at The Dog Bar shared the message with WFTS. It reads in part, “Help me, please call the police.”
“When I first saw the message, I don’t think I really even stopped to think about what was going on,” said manager Stephanie Marble. “I just felt like I needed to act.”
Marble and a trusted customer immediately went to the restroom area, pounding on every door.
Marble soon rescued the victim, escorting her to a safe space, and called the police.
“Pretty traumatized by the event, still,” said Marble. “I think it’s going to take a little while for it to leave me.”
According to the police report, the victim said, “I don’t give you permission.” She reportedly told officers she did not attempt to fight Matchett, fearful of what might happen due to his level of aggression.
Police arrested Matchett, charging him with sexual battery. Matchett has an extensive criminal history in Pinellas County, but nothing of a violent nature.
Vlad Cruz, a customer in the bar, says he spotted Matchett after the attack and tracked him walking down Central Avenue until police arrived.
“I was able to follow him down the street for a bit just to keep eyes to make sure he didn’t disappear anywhere," Cruz said.
Police are giving credit to both staff and that customer for their swift action Sunday.
“I hope more people take the opportunity to take action or speak out,” said Cruz.
This story was originally published by Ryan Smith at WFTS.