Police: Woman Sexually Assaulted By Ex-Marine At DIA

Police: Sex Assault Happened Inside Concourse A

A 26-year-old Oregon man was arrested and accused of sexually assaulting a female passenger inside Concourse A at Denver International Airport early Tuesday morning.

Noel Alexandre Bertrand, of Portland, Ore., appeared before a judge Wednesday morning to be advised of the sexual assault charge. His bond was increased from $10,000 to $50,000.

Police said the violent sexual assault happened just after midnight Tuesday.

Bertrand was arrested just after midnight on a DIA concourse after two airline employees saw him attacking a woman and called police, Denver police spokesman Sonny Jackson said.

The 22-year-old victim, who is also from Oregon, told 7NEWS reporter Russell Haythorn she was flying to Illinois to interview at a convent.

"I couldn't talk. I couldn't say anything," the victim told Haythorn. "He grabbed me and held my neck to the ground. I started to stress out, and I couldn't breathe very well. I started to tense up and I started to get an asthma attack."

She said she missed her connecting flight at DIA and didn't have money for a hotel. So she decided just to spend the night at the airport.

The woman said she went to Chef Jimmy's Italian Bistro and Spirits on Concourse A and a man at the bar struck up a conversation.

When the bistro closed, the woman said she took an escalator downstairs to find a seat. The man followed and sat next to her.

The woman said the man asked if he could kiss her and she refused.

"I sit up and he's leaned in and he asks, 'Can I kiss you?' And when I tell him that's too forward, before I could finish my statement, he had already pulled me in to kiss him. And he forcefully held me there," the woman said.

"And I'm sitting there with my neck kinked down, and I'm already frantic."

Suddenly, she said, the man grabbed the strings of her hooded sweatshirt and pulled, lifting her off the ground.

The man then threw her on the floor, grabbing her head and pounding it on the floor, said the woman, who had a large bruise above her left eye.

"I couldn't reach anywhere. I couldn't touch anything and I couldn't breathe," she said. "He told me to put myself in a position for him. He pulled my pants down and proceeded to assault me from behind."

The victim said the man tore off her clothing and sexually assaulted her for about 10 minutes on the concourse, which was deserted at that hour.

Woman Says DIA Employees Witnessed What Happened, Did Nothing

During the attack, she said two airport janitors passed by, and said nothing.

"Another employee walked by, a female, and she looked and she walked away and kept walking. I was just so upset that I couldn't focus on what was going on. I just kept getting my head thrown down," she said.

Finally, she said, two airport workers outside the terminal saw the attack through a window and intervened.

Denver police said a Frontier Airlines employee and another airport worker stopped the attack and called police.

"One of the (men) approached him from behind and pulled him off of me. As they were shouting when they were coming over, he wasn't stopping. They had to pull him off of me," she said.

"He was trying to tell them that we were just having sex. It was a lover's quarrel," she said. "A woman getting beaten on the ground is not a lover's quarrel."

DIA issued a statement Wednesday, stating: “We are taking the alleged sexual assault that occurred at DIA on April 12 very seriously. The airport is fully cooperating with the Denver Police Department’s ongoing investigation.

"To the best of our knowledge, airport employees who witnessed the incident responded immediately by either calling for help or intervening in the situation," statement said. "We are asking anyone who may have information about the incident to contact the Denver Police Department."

Airport officials said that for a "city within a city" -- home to 30,000 employees and 146,000 daily passengers -- DIA has remarkably few violent crimes.

"We strive to make Denver International Airport the safest environment as possible," the DIA statement said. "All airport employees complete a mandatory annual training on safety and security in order to have their badges renewed. Employees are trained to be extra-vigilant and to report suspicious activity using an emergency phone number printed on all badges."

Officials stressed DIA's "many layers of security, including local and federal law enforcement as well as security guards that are privately contracted by the airport. Safety and security is of the utmost importance at DIA, and police and security patrol the premises including Jeppesen terminal and all concourses.”

Jackson, the police spokesman agreed, saying: the stranger attack "appears to be an isolated incident."

While city crime records show two other sexual assaults at DIA in the past five months, police said they both appear to be attacks by one airport employee on another."

The woman was recovering at the Denver home of a cousin on Tuesday. She was scheduled to fly out Tuesday night.

"It's very important that if you are traveling alone, and you don't have the security of someone with you, that you have the security of the facility that you're in," said the woman. "Especially if it's a government facility like the Denver airport. You should be comfortable being alone. It's hard to say that it was even avoidable. It could have happened to anyone."

Bertrand Is A Former Marine

Bertrand is from Portland, Ore., according to public records.

A woman identifying herself as Bertrand's grandmother answered the phone at his Portland home Tuesday and said her grandson was in Denver.

The grandmother said he's a former U.S. Marine. She declined further comment.

Marine Cpl. Noel Bertrand served on Marine security details at U.S. embassies in Dublin, Ireland; Caracas, Venezuela; and Doha, Qatar, according to public records and a July 2009 article in Leatherneck, a magazine about Marines.

Bertrand's final embassy assignment was 2009 in Ireland, where he was "the Dublin detachment’s morale, welfare and recreation (non-commissioned officer) and Birthday Ball NCO," Leatherneck reported. Bertrand told the magazine "'The Dub' was a godsend. The detachment commander is outstanding, and the other Marines are awesome."

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