LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – A San Diego man has been arrested, accused of relentlessly trying to kidnap a 6-year-old girl during the course of a trip last month with her blind father aboard public transportation, but which was ultimately thwarted by several good Samaritans, including a homeless man.
24-year-old Elijah Lopez was arrested in San Diego on one count of kidnapping, Los Angeles police announced at a news conference Wednesday.
The incident occurred back on Aug. 18 as Cesar Palma and his daughter Selena were using public transportation to go from Long Beach back to their home in Westlake.
The two were on a Metro train when they were first approached by Lopez, who engaged them in conversation and then asked if he could take the girl home, police said.
Several people on the train then stepped in and prevented Lopez from taking the girl.
“This overt action caused the commuting public that was on the train to step forward and tell Mr. Lopez to leave the family alone,” LAPD Capt. Alfonso Lopez told reporters Wednesday. “One would think that would stop his action, but it did not.”
When the two got off at the 7th Street Metro Center Station in downtown L.A., Lopez continued to follow them, making such overt gestures that again prompted good Samaritans to intervene.
“His overbearingness while walking to the bus line was so obvious and disturbing to additional Angelenos, that they in turn stepped forward and told Lopez to leave the family alone,” Capt. Lopez said.
However, police were not contacted and Lopez was able to follow them as they boarded a bus, police said. He continued to speak to Selena and her father, with commuters coming to the family’s aid for yet a third time.
“He began mimicking our 6-year-old victim’s action, trying to create a relationship which was so outlandish,” Capt. Lopez said.
When they got off the bus and began walking home, Lopez followed. At the intersection of 6th and Coronado streets, Lopez physically tried to grab the girl’s hand and pull her away, police said. Cesar held on to his daughter’s hand and screamed for help.
Two good Samaritans — Mr. Johnson, a homeless man who frequents the neighborhood, and Ms. Machado, who resides there — jumped in and prevented the kidnapping for a fourth time.
“When he tried to grab her, that’s when I turned around and started yelling at him, stay the bad-word away from us…that’s when the neighbors stepped in and he started walking away,” Palma said at the news conference.
Police responded, but not before Lopez had fled.
Investigators eventually identified Lopez as the suspect and he was arrested by San Diego County Sheriff’s deputies on Sept. 2 and extradited up to L.A.
Investigators believe Lopez may have targeted other young children on public transportation in both L.A. and San Diego counties.
“We believe that Elijah Lopez utilizes public transportation to only traverse between the counties of Southern California, but to target victims,” Lopez said.
Anyone with more information about Lopez’s other possible victims in the L.A.-area is asked to contact the LAPD.