When Kelly Herron took a break from her daily run to use a public restroom, there was no way she could have known that her day was about to take a turn for the extreme. But as she dried her hands and turned around, she realized that something was terribly wrong. Indeed, standing behind her was a registered sex offender. Herron, then, had to think on her feet – and as she defended herself, her GPS recorded the entire, terrifying ordeal.
Thirty-six-year-old Herron hails from Seattle, Washington, where she works for a cosmetics company. She’s a passionate jogger, cyclist and runner and is keen to extol the virtues of keeping fit and exercising. But on that fateful spring day she was about to find that the hobby could prove dangerous.
Of course, Herron had felt no fear on 5 March, 2017, when she’d headed down to the Golden Gardens Park in Seattle. With beaches, wetlands and grassy areas, the park is a popular location – particularly for watersports like canoeing, kayaking and kitesurfing. Rather than participating in any of those, however, Herron embarked upon a ten-mile run.
After four miles, Herron made what was intended to be a brief stop at a public restroom. And everything seemed normal – until she was drying her hands, that is. Indeed, it was at that moment that the day began to go horribly wrong for Herron.
Sensing something behind her, Herron wheeled around and came face to face with a man standing in the restroom. And before she even had chance to react, he tackled her violently to the floor. It’s hard to imagine what must have been going through Herron’s head at this moment.
The man in question was 40-year-old Gary Steiner, a registered sex offender. Indeed, his record goes all the way back to the 1990s. And while Herron couldn’t possibly have known any of that at the time, it would have been obvious what his intentions were.
However, Herron wasn’t about to go down without a fight. And so, the pair struggled on the floor of the bathroom, with Steiner attacking Herron’s legs. But Herron retaliated with her own “battle cry,” as she later put it to ABC News, repeatedly shouting, “Not today, m*****f*****!”
Eventually, through her sheer resilience, Herron managed to free herself from Steiner and flee into one of the stalls. Once inside, she attempted to lock the door, but in her panicked state she didn’t succeed. Steiner then forced his way inside the stall and began attacking Herron again.
Steiner repeatedly struck her face with his hands. As a result, Herron felt that she was in danger of passing out. But then, she had what amounted to a mini epiphany. She realized that there was no reason for it to be a fair fight.
High on adrenaline, Herron began to claw at her attacker’s face. She then managed to force her way from of the stall and back into the main restroom. And she didn’t stop there, fleeing out into the open air.
Indeed, it seemed to have been a single moment of lucidity that allowed Herron to overcome her attacker. “All those little things that I learned in my life… how to punch and everything came back to me,” she told ABC.
Once outside, Herron managed to flag down a passerby. And through sheer chance, this individual had a carabiner on hand. It didn’t take long, then, for the pair to use it to keep her attacker locked up in the restroom.
Herron later posted about her terrifying ordeal on Instagram. Alongside photos of the location of the attack and the injuries she incurred during it, she also posted a snapshot of her GPS tracker. The red lines are stark evidence of the frenetic movement in the restroom as Herron fought off Steiner.
Herron put her escape down to a self-defense class she’d taken only three weeks beforehand, offered through her employer. She later posted on Facebook about the importance of learning such techniques. She wrote, “Ladies – if your employer… offers a self-defense workshop like they did for us… not only should you sign up, you must ATTEND!”
During that class, Herron learned that the best way to defend yourself is to target the most vulnerable parts of your attacker’s body. Indeed, she told ABC that she knew where the “hard bones and soft fleshy places” were. As a result, she struck the side of Steiner’s head using the side of her hand, which proved effective.
Herron’s self-defense instructor, Jordan Giarratano, expressed his disbelief at the incident. “This is one of the most surreal things I’ve ever seen… in the four years I’ve been running this workshop,” he told ABC News. “It’s very inspiring and overwhelming and humbling.”
Giarratano has more than two decades’ experience teaching self-defense. His main advice for people under attack is to fight back straight away, using an open hand. They should also make loud noises and trust their instincts, he told ABC News.
Herron, meanwhile, seems to have taken the experience in her stride. Indeed, she says she sees her successful act of self-defense in a positive light. And despite the attack, she’s still intending to compete in the Seattle Rock and Roll Marathon in summer 2017.
Following his arrest, Steiner has been in prison, with his bail set at $750,000. He’s facing charges of second degree assault and attempted rape in the second degree. According to the Clark County Sheriff’s Office, he’s classified as a Transient Level III Sex Offender. That means the likelihood of him reoffending is deemed to be high.
Herron’s courage, quick thinking and self-defense know-how prevented what could have been a terrible incident that day in March. Of course, many women aren’t so lucky. Indeed, three female joggers were murdered in the U.S. over the course of just nine days in the summer of 2016. Nevertheless, Herron’s frightening story is a stark warning about the importance of learning self-defense.