Burnaby man charged with sexual assault following groping incidents

Dec 11 2019, 2:35 pm

A 29-year-old Burnaby man has been charged with four counts of sexual assault in connection to multiple alleged groping incidents that took place earlier this year.

According to Burnaby RCMP, the charges come after a six-month investigation.

On April 12, 2019, officers responded to a report from a teenage girl who said she was groped from behind by a man on Hastings Street in North Burnaby.

She told police the man allegedly ran up to her, grabbed her buttocks, attempted to engage in conversation with her, and then fled the area. Frontline officers arrived on the scene, gathered CCTV footage and were able to isolate images of the suspect.

Police say they responded to another incident involving a teenage girl who said she was groped from behind on Willingdon Avenue in North Burnaby on May 8.

Similar to the first incident, the victim told police she was walking, when a man approached her from behind, grabbed her buttocks, and attempted to speak to her. The victim challenged the man, and he fled the area.

Officers collected CCTV footage and identified the man as being the same suspect involved in the April 12 incident.

Burnaby RCMP’s High-Risk Offender Unit (HRO) took over the investigation in mid-May. The HRO used intelligence collected from interviews with victims, witnesses, and CCTV footage and were able to trace the suspect’s movements, which led to the arrest of Jorge Benjamin Bernal at a Burnaby residence on August 21.

Officers executed a search warrant and obtained clothing that matched the suspect’s clothing in the CCTV images collected earlier in the investigation.

Bernal was released conditionally, but he committed two further offences during his release.

On September 20, Bernal allegedly inappropriately touched a caseworker assigned to work with him and a few weeks later on November 6, he allegedly groped a community support worker assisting him with finding accommodation.

In a release, Inspector Matt Toews, with Burnaby RCMP, said the experience has been “traumatic” for the victims.

“These investigators left no stone unturned, and their diligence has resulted in serious charges being laid against the suspect,” he said.

Bernal is currently out on bail and is required to abide by 22 conditions, which include no contact with anyone under the age of 16 and not taking any public bus unless travelling to an approved meeting or appointment.

He is scheduled to appear in Vancouver Provincial Court on January 15, 2020.