UW-Madison student 'brutally attacked,' man arrested

A University of Wisconsin student was "brutally attacked" and sexually assaulted in downtown Madison early Sunday morning, Sept. 3.

Wednesday, Madison police announced the arrest of 26-year-old Brandon Thompson. Dane County Jail records show he was booked on charges of first-degree sexual assault, first-degree reckless injury and strangulation. 

According to Madison police, the woman in her 20s was found "severely beaten" near Wilson and Bedford streets – roughly a half-mile from Kohl Center – around 3:20 a.m. She was rushed to a hospital with life-threatening injuries and remained in critical condition as of Sunday afternoon.

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Police said video evidence played a key role in identifying Thompson, along with witness statements and biological evidence.

"Our investigation revealed that Thompson was at the scene of the crime, as evidenced by a witness during our initial canvass," said Madison Police Chief Shon Barnes. "Thompson told this witness that he had ‘just found’ our survivor, pretending ot be an innocent bystander."

"Video evidence would play an important role in the investigation," said Assistant Chief Paige Valenta. "In fact, video that we received from the community proved to be a linchpin in the investigation."

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That was, in part, because police were able to get a read on a license plate, vehicle and Thompson. 

Wisconsin court records indicate Thompson has no criminal history, and police said there is no known connection between Thompson and the victim. In a statement Thursday, the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee confirmed Thompson was a 2019 graduate of the criminal justice program, adding: "The attack in Madison has disheartened everyone, and we are keeping the victim and her family in our thoughts."

Police declined to update the public on the victim's condition Wednesday, saying that supporting her and her family is the focus right now.