If a strange large man attacks you, go for the soft bits.

If he grabs you from behind in a bear hug, try jabbing him in the gut until there's enough room to strike his testicles with your foot or elbow. If he's able to maneuver on top of you, jam your thumbs into his eye sockets until your fingertips scrape his brain. 

And keep an awareness of anything around you that could be used as a weapon. 

These were some of the lessons dispensed by Heather Rider, a certified instructor in krav maga (the official hand-to-hand combat system of the Israeli Defense Forces), at a citizen's meeting at Harvey Cornell Rose Park on Thursday afternoon. The gathering was organized by a woman who was recently the target of a serial sexual predator that neighbors have come to know as the South Capitol Creeper.

Rider said that krav maga is less a martial art than a brutal assortment of self-defense techniques designed to take down an attacker as efficiently as possible. 

"Give yourself permission to be impolite," she told a crowd of a little over a dozen people, mostly older women, who watched her beat up on a male volunteer. It was hard to imagine any of them would be inclined to tear flesh with the defensive zeal advocated by Rider. But some said that they were allowed to protect themselves by any means necessary. 

"Women are overtrained to be polite and receptive to other people," said Oneida Brooks, a 42-year Santa Fe resident. "But you need to be discriminating. I work in retail, tourist women come in and say 'I love it, it's so beautiful,' and the enchantment blinded them. I'm from Chicago; I've never left that spatial awareness behind."

Her friend Irene Kummer, who lives in the South Capitol neighborhood, indicated that such deep suspicion was newer for her.

Liliana Dillingham

"For three nights I slept in a hotbox. I locked my window and closed my door; now it's back to doors unlocked. I'm less vigilant," she said. "It's just very easy to let that go. So the signs on the street, the neighborhood watch sign—if I think about it, it's like a stop sign."

"The stuff they said [to do] is the simplest stuff in the world," Brooks responded. 

Before the brief krav maga lesson, uniformed officers took questions from about two dozen neighbors about the Creeper. He appears to be the same man who perved out on at least three different occasions last summer, lurking in women's homes and grabbing some while they were alone, said Santa Fe Detective Jimmy Montoya.

The Creeper has been described as an Anglo man with light brown crew-cut hair, tan skin and a runner's build, and possibly a six-pack. He's reportedly between 5'8 and 6 feet tall and in his late 20s to early 30s. Montoya said the police department had received "hundreds of tips" on the case. 

Police Chief Patrick Gallagher said that extra patrol had been assigned to the area where the Creeper was spotted earlier this month, but at only 70 to 80 percent capacity, the police department was limited in how many officers it could send to the area. 

A couple of men in attendance asked what the legal repercussions would be if they spotted the suspect and took justice into their own hands. Peter Komis, president of the Don Gaspar Neighborhood Association and himself the victim of a drive-by shooting at his home three years ago, said he would use lethal force if he discovered a strange man attacking his female relatives. 

"It may not fit the legal definition of self defense," warned Captain Adam Gallegos, who suggested instead that audience members call 911 if faced with similar situations. "Be a good witness."

Liliana Dillingham

Still, it can be difficult to control your reaction when you feel like you're under attack.

Also in attendance at the gathering was a woman who says she kicked into fight mode when she recently saw the suspected Creeper standing in the threshold of her doorway around midnight on July 4. 

"It was instinctual," she said. "I'm a mom, fight was easy. I had children in the home." 

She said the man, who was wearing some sort of face covering, immediately got spooked and turned to flee when she noticed him. She grabbed a large wooden stick her child was playing with and chased him, thrashing his back several times until the man leaped over the adobe wall outside her home. 

Although it was an unpleasant experience, she said she was pleased at the solidarity it inspired.

"All communities should get together," she said. "I think it's a huge source of strength and a resource against all sorts of crime. Knowing the people around you and feeling like you're part of a community is what we do as humans. And the more we're on our phones and computers we get further away. Unfortunately events like this happen, but what a great response."