Mob of kids chase down suspicious stranger
Copyright 2004 Houston Chronicle
Wielding baseball bats and sticks, a mob in northwest Houston today chased down a man suspected of preying on neighborhood children in recent weeks.
"We know him. The whole neighborhood knows him," said Carlos Gonzalez.
Residents told police the 44-year-old man tried to lure children into his van last week while it was parked at a nearby elementary school. They also accused him of hugging a 12-year-old boy on Saturday while he was wearing women's clothing.
Sharp-eyed neighborhood children initiated the pursuit of the suspected child predator.
"The little kids spotted him. The little kids started the chase," Gonzalez said. "All the little kids in the neighborhood -- they had sticks an everything."
About 20 children, mostly armed with sticks, began following the man when they spotted him at 12:45 p.m. near Peg and Bolin.
One of the pursuers, Francisco Garcia, 12, said the man -- who doesn't live in the area -- approached him Saturday night.
"He came up to me dressed like a woman and tried to hug me and talk to me," Garcia said. "I saw that he was a guy so I left."
Adults joined in the chase when the man threatened the young pursuers.
"I came out with a baseball bat," Gonzalez said. "When he saw the men coming, he ran."
The mob cornered the man in a fenced-in yard near Granite and Bolin where he waited for police to arrive.
The homeowner called police and pleaded with the crowd to not harm the man. Gonzalez said the man dropped a bundle on the ground which contained a girl's shirt wrapped around several pictures of small children.
"He was sitting there sniffing the shirt, laughing at us," Gonzalez said.
Officers arrested the man when they discovered the van he was driving had been stolen. They found several pairs of socks, a boy's T-shirt and a pair of girl's underwear inside the vehicle.
Though arrested for car theft, detectives were attempting to determine if he had been under investigation on child molestation or related charges.
While nobody was hurt during Sunday's pursuit, officers said citizens shouldn't take the law into their own hands.
"You need to call law enforcement and let us handle that," said Houston police officer S.A. Burk.
Gonzalez confronted the man last week, soon after he said the man attempted to lure children into his van.
"I said, `Hey, if you're in this neighborhood trying to get kids, you're going to get hurt,'" Gonzalez said. "He said you've got the wrong guy."
Police said officers have responded to two calls in the area in the recent past, but none resulted in any arrest. It wasn't known late Sunday whether any of the calls were about sexual assault allegations.
Local resident Alfonso Martinez has a boy, 4, and a girl, 7, and said he hoped Sunday was the last day they would see the man in their neighborhood.
"I hope he doesn't come back," Martinez said. "Something bad is going to happen if he shows up around this neighborhood."