Concern grows after attempted kidnapping, rape in downtown Knoxville

A woman in Market Square was attacked during her morning run on Tuesday and escaped with minor injuries, officials said.
A woman in Market Square was attacked during her morning run on Tuesday, and escaped with minor injuries.
Published: Sep. 6, 2022 at 10:48 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 7, 2022 at 12:29 PM EDT
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - Just days after a the tragic death of Eliza Fletcher in Memphis, a scary morning for a woman jogging in downtown Knoxville.

According to the Knoxville Police Department, a woman was attacked by 34 year-old Japa Goins outside of the Subway in Market Square.

“It’s unsettling to say the least,” said a mother who walks around the area at least once a week.


A convicted sex offender is accused of kidnapping and trying to rape a woman as she jogged through Market Square on Tuesday morning, according to the Knoxville Police Department. Head to the link in our bio for alarming details about the suspect’s criminal history. #knoxville #tennessee #crime #news

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According to the Tennessee Sex Offender Registry, Goins has a criminal history that dates back to 2006 and includes instances in which he faced rape and sexual assault charges. He will now face charges of aggravated kidnapping, attempted rape and violation of sex offender registry.

Thanks to the help of bystanders, the woman who was attacked was able to escape with only minor injuries and an arrest was made just three hours after the 7 a.m. incident, according to KPD. Although many in the area are thankful things weren’t worse than they were, they’re also now left with an uneasy feeling.

“I would say that as a female in general it’s always in the back of my mind,” said Amanda Fitzgerald, who lives in the area.

Just a few miles from downtown, Whitney Heins is leading a group of moms in organized running called Mother Runners.

“It’s sad. I mean so many people are mad about what happened in Memphis and now here in Knoxville,” said Heins.

She, along with many others, runs in the well trafficked area of downtown Knoxville frequently and is now forced to think about what what if’s when on her run.

Although going on runs when it’s not too early or late are good baseline tips for avoiding an attack, she offered more proactive guidance on how to defend yourself if you find yourself in a bad situation.

“There are rings that have blades so that if you punch them you can injure them, and collect DNA. There are tasers, alarms, pepper spray. There’s a whole bunch out there. But the biggest thing is to run in safe areas and run with other people,” said Heins.

Goins is in jail and has been charged, but warrants have not been served yet, according to KPD.