A gay man who visited Palm Springs is speaking out after being brutally attacked by someone he met on a dating app.
Rand Snell traveled from St. Petersburg, Florida, and was drugged and assaulted at his hotel by a man during what he expected to be a casual hookup.
"I felt the rush of drugs went into me from behind," Snell said. "It only took a couple of minutes for me to lose control."
Snell, going in and out of consciousness for the next few hours, was raped, burned, beaten, bitten, and kicked by his attacker. The anonymous hookup sent Snell to the hospital, traumatized physically and emotionally. The attack happened in January, and the attacker has not yet been caught by police.
Palm Springs police worked for weeks to track down the suspect, who Snell said is of Turkish origin, in his early 50s, and lives in the Palm Springs or Desert Hot Springs area. Snell said he's identified other victims who say they were assaulted by the same man.
Snell said the investigation seems to have stalled. Palm Springs Police Department wrote in a statement "investigators are working closely with Snell to identify and prosecute the suspect." In the meantime, the police department put out tips to increase safety when online dating, including meeting publicly for the first several dates.
Snell hopes that by sharing his story, he can prevent others from going through the same experience. "Looking back on it, I just should have been more careful in that moment of loneliness... I should have asked more questions. I hope other people are more careful than I was."
Palm Springs Police Dept. online dating safety tips:
Online dating can be a great opportunity to meet new people. However, predators are known to use dating apps to victimize unsuspecting and trusting people. As online dating has become more popular, victims have reported being subjected to harassment, theft, money scams, fraud, stalking, and physical and sexual abuse by someone whom they met online. Although not a guarantee, below are some tips to increase your safety when interacting with others online.
Use a Reputable Dating Site or App: Use a reputable dating site or app with a good reputation and read reviews before signing up.
Protect Your Personal Information: Do not share personal information like your home address, phone number, or email address until you feel comfortable with the person and have met them in person.
Use a Different Email Address: Set up a separate email account to use for online dating. This way, your personal or work email won't be flooded with dating-related messages.
Avoid connecting with suspicious profiles: Use caution if the person you matched with has no bio, has only posted one picture, and has no linked social media accounts, it may be a fake account. Trust your instincts and end the conversation or date if something doesn't feel right. Block and report suspicious users.
Do Your Research: Before meeting someone in person, do your research on them. Search for their name and check their social media profiles to ensure they are who they say they are.
Tell a Friend or Family Member: Let someone know where you're going, who you're meeting, and when you expect to be back. You can even consider sharing your location with a trusted friend or family member.
Meet in a Public Place: For your first few dates, always meet in a public place like a coffee shop, restaurant, or park. This will help you feel safe and in control.
Take it Slow: Take your time getting to know someone online and don't feel pressured to meet in person until you're ready.
Be in control: Take your own transportation to and from the date so you can leave whenever you want and avoid getting into a vehicle with someone you don't feel comfortable with.
Don't respond to a request to send money. - Online scammers will use various ruses in order to obtain money through wire transfers or gift cards.
Remember, your safety should always be a top priority, and taking precautions can help ensure that your online dating experience is a positive one.
The Palm Springs Police Department is aware of a news article regarding a victim who was sexually assaulted in Palm Springs, in January. The crime was immediately reported to police and Investigators are working closely with the victim to identify and criminally prosecute the suspect. Sexual assault crimes are taken very seriously, and victims are encouraged to report the crime immediately to their local law enforcement agency. If anyone has information related to this incident, please contact Detective Jimenez at 760-323-8136 or email@example.com.