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, Last Updated: 5:43 PM ET
EDMONTON — Griffen Annett was playing Pokemon Go with a group of friends on a Saturday night in August when they heard a terrifying scream.
Annett, 20, along with Nicola Scott-Federow and Crystal Lambert jumped into action when they quickly realized a woman was being assaulted in some nearby woods. For their actions to help the victim, the group of friends were recognized at the Edmonton Police Commission Citizen Awards this week.
It was late in the evening and the group of friends decided to play Pokemon Go close to home, while the craze was at the height of its popularity. Then they heard the scream.
“It was a scream that wouldn’t have been funny if it was a joke,” Annett said after the awards ceremony. “It caught the attention of everyone in our group.”
The first instinct was to set off in the direction of the scream. Then they heard the second one and a third scream came just an arm’s length away so Annett moved back some tree branches and saw a man trying to throw himself on a woman struggling on the ground.
“My immediate reaction was to throw the man off and to get this girl the proper help she needed,” said Annett.
The culprit got away, but the group managed to intervene prior to what police say was an attempted sexual assault. They called authorities for help and stayed with the woman as they waited for police and an ambulance crew to show up.
Annett was shaken up by the event, which gave him a new understanding of the seriousness of sexual assault.
“A lot of the times, screams go unheard,” he said.
When police later phoned him to tell him he would be recognized for his efforts to help the woman, he was nervous seeing “Edmonton Police Service” on the call display. That emotion quickly turned to happiness.
“My entire life, I’ve been the kind of person who has flown under the radar,” Annet said. “To be publicly noticed for something this big, it was definitely an eye-opener, but it’s also a humbling experience.”
City police Det. Marci Koshowski nominated Annet and his friends.
“It’s very heroic,” Koshowski said. “You’re going to screaming in a forested area – you have no idea if there’s someone in there with a weapon. I thought it was very brave.”
She said the woman was pulled from a walking path and had been choked to the point of being unconscious. Had the Pokemon Go players not intervened, the woman would have been sexually assaulted, Koshowski said.
“A very bad situation was arising, and really without them, it’s my belief that this woman would have been sexually assaulted,” Koshowski said.
The case has gone cold, but Koshowski is confident police will eventually catch the man.