Police: Serial flasher arrested after string of incidents across city

SEATTLE - A flasher previously busted masturbating in front of restaurant staff in West Seattle is now accused of exposing himself to four women across the city.

King County prosecutors claim Seattle resident Eric Ross was identified by four women following incidents in the Central District, at the University of Washington and on a bus in Ravenna.

According to charging papers, Ross ejaculated on a young woman's table at the University of Washington student union building. The 22-year-old is alleged to have admitted to exposing himself to women for some time.

"I've had this problem for a few years," Ross said following his Aug. 1 arrest, according to police. "I can't control it. I need (expletive) help."

While the recent masturbatory spree is alleged to have begun in April, Ross was first caught pleasuring himself in front of strangers on Nov. 1, 2010.

In that instance, Ross sat down at a table in Caf Rozella, a West Seattle caf that has since closed. The server, who was working alone, was horrified when she saw Ross unzip his pants and begin masturbating.

Ross then pulled a small pistol, pointed it at the woman and demanded she empty the cash register. She ran from the caf, while Ross left and exposed himself to a woman at a nearby Mexican restaurant.

As it turned out, this was something of a routine for Ross.

The day before, he'd exposed himself to a different woman at Caf Rozella after complaining that a Viagra pill he'd taken was too long acting. He then exposed himself to a worker at the neighboring restaurant.

Ross ultimately pleaded guilty to second-degree burglary and indecent exposure following a protracted prosecution that saw his renege on at least one guilty plea. He was sentenced to a 40 days in jail.

Prosecutors claim Ross was back at it by April 20, when he's alleged to have wandered the aisles of a Grocery Outlet store in Seattle's Central District with his genitals in hand.

According to charging papers, Ross approached a 20-year-old young woman from behind as she was shopping with a friend. He then unzipped his pants and started masturbating while walking toward the women.

Offering a familiar claim, prosecutors say Ross returned to the grocery four days later. One of the women was there as well and notified store security, who called for police.

Ross left before officers arrived but had been identified by Grocery Outlet security. He was charged in the incident July 15 and arrested Aug. 1. By then, prosecutors claim he'd accosted three more women.

On June 13, a 31-year-old UW student was seated in a booth at the Husky Union Building when Ross exposed himself to her.

Ross stood at the end of the booth masturbating, preventing her from escaping, a university detective said in charging papers. He is alleged to have ejaculated on the table in front of her; the detective said DNA recovered from the table matched Ross.

Eleven days later, a 39-year-old woman was entering UW's Schmitz Hall when she saw Ross pacing on a patio. According to charging papers, the woman realized Ross was masturbating.

"Are you (expletive) kidding me?" the woman yelled at Ross, according to charging papers.

Ross then fled, pursued by the woman and two bystanders, the detective continued. They stopped a passing police officer, who searched the area without success.

The UW Police Department sergeant returned to take a statement from the woman. As she was giving it, she spotted her assailant in a parked car; he appeared to be trying to stop women walking by.

The man - since identified by police as Ross - sped away after the woman shouted "that's him," according to charging papers.

Ross is alleged to have followed up that flashing up with another on July 2 aboard a Metro Transit bus in the University District.

Writing the court, a King County Sheriff's Office detective assigned to the transit police said a 27-year-old UW student boarded the northbound Route 75 bus at the university. Ross got on at the next stop and sat across the aisle from her.

Recounting the incident to police, the woman said Ross touched her arm and said "excuse me" to gain her attention. She turned, glanced down and saw Ross was masturbating.

Ross left the bus moments later when it stopped near the University Village shopping center, the detective told the court. The woman, though shocked, reported the incident to police.

Ross remained unidentified until July 27, when the woman saw waiting to board the 75. The woman took several photos of him, which she provided to police; investigators quickly realized it was Ross.

Police arrested Ross on Aug. 1.

Interviewed by police, Ross said he admitted to masturbating in front of strangers, investigators say.

"I've got a problem with exposing myself," Ross said, according to police.

Ross explained that he exposes himself after smoking marijuana, and that, for reasons unclear, he targets women he believes unable to speak English, the detective continued.

"I do it and I leave," Ross said, according to charging papers. "I don't linger. I don't touch them. I don't follow them."

Now charged with three counts of felony indecent exposure, Ross has been jailed on $225,000 bail.