A California man allegedly tried to abduct a 6-year-old girl from right in front of her blind father, says the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office in a statement obtained by Law&Crime. Elijah John Lopez, 24, faces one count of attempted kidnapping.
Officials said on Wednesday that the defendant was riding a Blue Line light rail train at the same time as the girl and her dad. Lopez followed them off of the train, even getting on the same bus as them. Once the family stepped off of the bus, Lopez allegedly tailed them to their home, grabbed the child, and attempted to kidnap her.
But the girl’s father struggled, officials said. Witnesses intervened, and Lopez fled, according to authorities. Law enforcement said they caught the suspect in San Diego.
“That is creepy beyond belief,” a local woman told KCAL in her take on the story.
Los Angeles Police Department Captain Alfonso Lopez of the Rampart Division told reporters in a press conference on Wednesday that they believe Lopez, a San Diego resident, used the rail system to target young victims in the region.
According to the police account, Elijah Lopez attempted to befriend the daughter and father while on the light rail system. The defendant asked if he could take the child home with him; witnesses saw this and stepped forward to get him to leave the family alone, the LAPD captain said.
But the suspect allegedly continued his outrageous behavior on the bus, and his “overbearingness” was so clear that bystanders again intervened. The final confrontation happened on the way to the family’s home, where Elijah Lopez grabbed the girl’s hand.
The girl’s father Cesar Palma, who is blind, said he refused to let go of his daughter because if he did, the attacker could have grabbed her and run off. Police credit two people–a Ms. Machado, and Caustavius Johnson, who is homeless–with intervening and making Lopez leave.
Though the suspect allegedly fled, investigators said they were able to identify him through surveillance footage on the transit system, and arrested him in San Diego on September 2. Deputies over there are also working on two cases featuring the same M.O., Captain Lopez said.
People who believe they are victims of the same suspect are encouraged to call Detective Jose Almeido at (213) 484-3400. They can also contact 1 (877) 527-3247, or LA Crime Stoppers at 1 (800) 222-8477.
Elijah Lopez pleaded not guilty, prosecutors said. If convicted as charged, he faces up to 23 years in prison. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for September 18.
[Screengrab of Elijah Lopez via KCAL]
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