SANTA ANA (CBSLA.com) — A 425-pound gang member arrested for allegedly trying to kidnap a 10-year-old boy who was on his way to soccer practice pleaded not guilty Wednesday to a false imprisonment charge.
Victor Joseph Espinoza, 55, was also pleaded not guilty to a charge of street terrorism.
Espinoza denied sentencing enhancements for committing a crime for the benefit of a gang and a prior strike conviction for street terrorism in 2007, the Orange County District Attorney’s Office said.
Police were called to Delhi Park, 505 E. Central in Santa Ana, around 7:30 p.m. on Oct. 4 after a soccer coach unsuccessfully attempted to detain the suspect.
Espinoza escaped by the time officers arrived, but a helicopter located him hiding in a backyard in the 500 block of E. Central.
Espinoza, who police said is a documented gang member, was taken into custody without incident, but he had minor injuries from his contact with the soccer coach.
Investigators said the 10-year-old, who did not know the suspect, was going to soccer practice with his 19-year-old female cousin when Espinoza lured the victim close enough to grab him.
“He was grabbed by the suspect by both of his arms and he pulls him into his body area,” Santa Ana Police Cpl. Anthony Bertagna said. “We believe that he was going to take the kid away.”
The boy yelled for help and tried to pull away, but Espinoza would not let him go. The victim was finally able to break free and he and his cousin ran to the park, where they told the soccer coach what had occurred.
Espinoza, of Santa Ana, is being held on $250,000 bail.
The suspect is scheduled to be back in court on Oct. 18 for a pretrial hearing.
If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison.