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Man arrested for assault and burglary

January 17, 2004

Deepa Bharath

Police arrested early Friday morning a 35-year-old Lake Forest man

who, officials say, reportedly befriended women in bars, offered them

rides home, and then returned under the cover of darkness and

sexually assaulted at least two of those women.

Romilien Antonio Fleming usually hung out at Pierce Street Annex

on East 17th Street, where he met most of his victims, Costa Mesa

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police Lt. John FitzPatrick said.

"He'd usually wait till later in the night and befriend women who

are inebriated and then offer them a ride home," he said. "In some

cases, he asked women if he could follow them home."

Once Fleming learned where the women lived, he left, FitzPatrick

said, only to return later that night or early in the morning.

Fleming is accused of sexually assaulting two of the women and

stealing some of their possessions, he said.

"It appears that his primary intent was not to take things from

these women," FitzPatrick said. "His intent was to assault them for

sexual gratification."

In both cases, the women had left their front door open, he said.

"[Fleming] walked through an open door both times," FitzPatrick

said. "It shows how important it is for people to be aware of what

they're doing not just outside of home, but also be conscious of

their surroundings in their homes."

Costa Mesa police detectives, who were already investigating the

case, spotted Fleming's car during the wee hours of Friday near

Pierce Street Annex and followed him to an apartment complex in the

300 block of 17th Place.

"He committed a burglary there, and our officers arrested him as

he came out," FitzPatrick said. "The victim actually woke up and

called police. Even as our investigators were watching him. They

heard the radio call go out."

Fleming tried to run, but officers caught up with him and arrested

him within a short distance, he said.

Fleming is not being accused of rape. But FitzPatrick said that

Fleming's actions falls under the category of sexual assault and

inappropriate touching.

None of the victims were injured, he said. So far, detectives have

learned of three victims -- two of those from Costa Mesa -- and are

trying to see if there were more, FitzPatrick said.

Fleming did not target single women or those who lived alone.

"In fact, one of the women he gave a ride to was with her husband

or boyfriend," FitzPatrick said. "He gave the two of them a ride."

Bars can be as dangerous as they can be fun to hang out in, said

Pamela Weaver, who works at Tony's Place, a Costa Mesa bar.

Weaver keeps an eye on the women, especially the ones who are by

themselves, she said.

"We make sure they get safely to their cars or take a cab," she

said.

Such incidents are almost unheard of in Costa Mesa, especially in

the smaller taverns where "people know people," Weaver said.

"We do get the creepy guys in our bar," she said with a laugh.

"But we play it by ear, use some common sense when we deal with them.

Still, it's scary when you hear about something like this happen

around here."

Anyone with information about this case is asked to call the Costa

Mesa Police Department at (714) 754-5340.

* DEEPA BHARATH covers public safety and courts. She may be

reached at (949) 574-4226 or by e-mail at deepa.bharath@latimes.com.

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