Whatever the man in an apparent kidnapping attempt had in mind when he grabbed Stephanie Steiniger hard by the wrist, he clearly didn’t know who he was messing with.
When the 51-year-old Overland Park woman ripped her arm free and buried her right foot in his groin, he probably had a clue.
This was a kickboxing instructor. This was a woman infuriated by the idea that such an attack could happen, who stood up the next day to warn other women in a public plea while wearing a purple tank top that read, “Strong is the new pretty.”
“I always believe everything happens for a reason,” Steiniger said Wednesday. “Maybe it’s so I can warn other women to be aware.”
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Police say the kidnapping attempt occurred around 7:50 p.m. Tuesday, just after dark, on the Indian Creek Trail just west of Quivira Road and south of 119th Street.
It ended quickly.
“I don’t do anything half-way,” Steiniger said. “I kicked hard.”
When she teaches self-defense, she said, she always instructs her students to “think about where it’s going to hurt the most.”
She kicked him “in the testicles,” she said, and she fled, hearing him behind her letting out “a guttural moan.”
Fighting back is important in a kidnapping attempt, even if the assailant has a weapon, said Overland Park Police spokesman John Lacy. The danger escalates dramatically if an assailant gets a victim into a vehicle and drives to a hidden location, he said.
“When you fight back like she did, you survive,” Lacy said. “You should scream, struggle, call for help. I have a teenaged daughter and I tell her she should fight.”
The man police are looking for ran away from the scene in a southwesterly direction. He was described as a slim white male in his late 20s or early 30s, with dark hair and glasses. He was wearing a dark zip-up hooded sweat shirt and dark jeans.
At times in the first hours after the attack, Steiniger started to put some blame on herself, but she determined that was wrong.
“He invaded my space,” she said. “I have a right to be on that trail.”
She was out later than she expected. She was feeling extra strong and extended what she had planned as something more of a 10-mile run. She had passed 13 miles and was determined to get to 14, keeping her out on the trail as darkness fell.
When she runs at night, she said, she carries pepper spray or even a stun gun. But she did not have them with her this time.
“I fully expected to be done before dark,” she said.
She was running west when the man approached, walking east. He asked her if she knew the time and Steiniger stopped and looked at her wrist watch. That’s when he grabbed her wrist and set off her swift and effective defense.
After her well-aimed kick, she sprinted to the nearby Little Caesars pizza restaurant and the police were called.
She has been running the trail for 14 years, she said, and has always taken several precautions. She doesn’t run the same route every time so her path is not predictable. She said she practices making eye contact and greeting on-comers to help her stay alert.
“I want other women to be aware,” she said. “It could happen to you.”
Lacy said the police department is not aware of any other recent kidnapping attempts or attacks on the Indian Creek Trail in Overland Park. That part of the trail, near 119th Street and Quivira, usually draws a lot of pedestrians and bicyclists, he said.
The Indian Creek Trail had been an area of widespread concern on the Missouri side in south Kansas City after police said five murders over the past year either on or near the trail appeared to be potentially linked.
Tensions eased when when authorities arrested 22-year-old Fredrick Demond Scott and charged him Aug. 29 with two murders and named him a suspect in the others.
The watch continues, however, for a suspect in the Overland Park trail assault. Anyone with information is asked to call the Overland Park police at 913-895-6300.