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Two construction workers rushed to the aid of a 20-year-old Madison woman who was being sexually assaulted Downtown around lunch time Tuesday, police said.

Kevin Kieren, 32, no permanent address, was charged Wednesday with fourth-degree sexual assault, lewd and lascivious behavior and disorderly conduct. A repeater provision was added to all three charges.

The woman, who lives Downtown, was walking in the 300 block of East Johnson Street at about 11:45 a.m. when she was attacked by a stranger who groped her and began to drop his pants, said Madison police spokesman Joel DeSpain.

As the woman yelled for help, the construction workers, who were up on a lift on a job site across the street, yelled at the assailant to get away from her and began lowering the lift while calling out to the woman to come to them, DeSpain said.

While one of the workers remained with the shaken woman, DeSpain said, the other worker tried to keep the attacker, “who was advancing on him, still with his pants down,” at bay.

“Not knowing what was going to happen, the witness took out his keys and put them in-between his knuckles,” DeSpain said.

He said the two construction workers will be nominated for Police Department awards.

According to a criminal complaint:

The woman told police she had just walked out of a bus at the intersection of Hamilton, Johnson and Butler streets when she heard car horns and her attention was drawn to a man walking in front of cars that had the green light at the intersection.

Moments later, as the woman was walking on the sidewalk in the 300 block of East Johnson, she said she felt someone grab her buttocks and then attempt to grab or slap at her breasts. The man groped her again after she stopped and turned around, she said.

She told police the man was the same person — later identified as Kieren — she had seen cutting through traffic.

Initially, she said she asked the man, “What are you doing?” She said he asked for her phone number as she repeatedly told him to go away.

She then began to scream, which got the attention of the construction workers.

She said the man followed her as she walked across the street toward the construction workers. She said she noticed the man was in the process of dropping his pants after she reached the workers.

One of the construction workers told police they saw the man touching the woman and then watched him dash into the street and run back toward Butler Street. They then saw the man run back to the victim, say something and then run back toward Butler Street again. When the man returned a third time they noticed he was attempting to drop his pants as he ran toward the woman.

Once the lift was lowered to the ground, the construction worker said his co-worker took the woman to a safe place. She was clearly shaken by the incident, he said.

The construction worker said he then saw the man approaching him with his pants down.

He told police he put his keys between his knuckles, put his fists up and told the man to, “Stay ... away.” Shortly thereafter, police arrived at the scene.

Madison police initially were dispatched to Chalmers Jewelers, 524 E. Washington Ave., at 11:48 a.m. following reports that a man was acting strangely inside the store.

About 30 minutes later, a person flagged down police as their squad car reached the intersection of Hamilton, Johnson and Butler streets and alerted them that a sexual assault had taken place.

Officers were then led to Kieren, who was standing nearby with his pants down. The jacket and shirt he was wearing matched the description of the man who had been acting strangely at Chalmers Jewelers.

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Rob Schultz has won multiple writing awards at the state and national levels and covers an array of topics for the Wisconsin State Journal in south-central and southwestern Wisconsin.

Bill Novak is a general assignment reporter for the Wisconsin State Journal.