To catch a predator: Flagstaff officer's dangerous mission - MyFoxAustin.com | KTBC Fox 7 | News, Weather, Sports

To catch a predator: Flagstaff officer's dangerous mission

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FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. -

We're getting a closer look at the man who Flagstaff Police say is responsible for assaulting and raping at least four women in the Flagstaff area.

His name is Gregory Woody Junior, and he was arrested Thursday after a six month long investigation. Flagstaff police are now talking more about the undercover operation that led to his arrest, and whether or not their undercover officer was ever in any danger.

This case was top priority. They were worried the assaults were increasing.

The mayor told police to spare no expense to get a serial sexual predator off the streets.

Undercover officers were sent into bars to try to spot the suspect. One ended up alone with him in a precarious situation.

Police photos show Gregory Woody Junior being arrested at his Flagstaff apartment Thursday. Police say DNA links the 22-year-old to a series of sexual assault cases where women were targeted at Flagstaff bars.

But it was the work of a female undercover officer that helped nab the suspect.

Police say the officer, in her mid-20s, approached Woody outside a bar after she says he was acting suspiciously.

But then she ended up alone with him, where she says he ran his hand under her shirt.

"He also grabbed her in a bear hug on multiple occasions and attempted in several occasions to kiss her," said Police Chief Kevin Treadway.

Investigators say the undercover officer had no weapon, only a cell phone to contact fellow officers, who were "nearby" -- making for a potentially dangerous situation. But police say backup could have gotten to her quickly if need be.

"We weren't able to keep a constant the eye on her at that point," said Sgt. James Jackson, Flagstaff PD. "There were officers that were fairly close to her."

Despite that, police didn't arrest Woody that night or put him in a photo lineup for the victims to identify.

"It wasn't like I said it wasn't anything apparent, that he was our suspect and we needed to take him into custody and hold him. He would have been out the next day had we arrested him that night."

Instead, police got a DNA swab from Woody the next day and watched him until the results came back. They say they took DNA samples from others too.

As it turned out, police say Woody's DNA matched three sexual assault cases. The officer had come face to face, even had contact with a suspected serial sexual predator.

"Was she endangered? We always are. Would we do anything that would have cost her life or couldn't have gotten to her in enough time? No we wouldn't do that to our officers," said Jackson.

Woody is in jail on a $100,000 bond. Police believe Woody matches the description of a suspect in a fourth sexual assault.

They're also checking to see if he's connected with similar incidents in Colorado and Montana.

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