/ Modified nov 10, 2023 2:02 p.m.

Man arrested in Nebraska in alleged assault of former US Sen. Martha McSally

She was molested as she jogged along the Missouri River in Council Bluffs, Iowa earlier this week.

mcsally trump rally VIEW LARGER Sen. Martha McSally, R-Ariz., at President Donald Trump’s rally in Phoenix in February, faces a difficult election in the fall to fill out the remaining two years of the late Sen. John McCain’s term, who she was appointed to replace in 2018.
Reno Del Toro/Cronkite News

A man was arrested early Friday in the alleged assault of former U.S. Sen. Martha McSally of Arizona, who says she was molested as she jogged along the Missouri River in Council Bluffs, Iowa.

Council Bluffs police said in a statement that the 25-year-old suspect from Papillion, Nebraska, was spotted by officers in Omaha, Nebraska, at 3:23 a.m. and arrested. Police said the man will be extradited back to Council Bluffs.

"You picked the wrong target," McSally wrote of the attacker in a Facebook post. She earlier described the Wednesday morning attack in a video she posted online.

“A man came up behind me and he engulfed me in a bear hug and he molested and fondled me until I fought him off,” she said. “I then chased him down. I said a lot of swear words in this moment. I was in a fight, flight or freeze. And I chose to fight.”

After McSally chased the man into the brush at Tom Hanafan River’s Edge Park, she called police. She lost sight of the man and he got away, but police said video surveillance and other investigative work led them to the suspect.

The former senator who failed to win reelection in Arizona in 2020 said she was in the Omaha area to deliver a speech about courage in Omaha on Wednesday night. Omaha and Council Bluffs are just 5 miles (8 kilometers) apart.

The first woman to fly a fighter plane in combat said in the video that she was OK, but that the assault “tapped into a nerve of other sexual abuse and assault that I’ve been through in the past.”

McSally disclosed during a 2019 Senate hearing on sexual assault in the military that she had been raped by a superior officer in the Air Force. She didn’t report that assault at the time because she didn’t trust the system, but she said Wednesday: “I took my power back. He tried to take power from me, but I turned it on him and he was running from me instead of the other way around.”

McSally served in the Air Force from 1988 until 2010 and rose to the rank of colonel before entering politics. She served two terms in the House before narrowly losing a bid to represent Arizona in the Senate against Democrat Kyrsten Sinema.

In 2018 she was appointed to replace longtime GOP Sen. John McCain after his death.

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