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Good Samaritans thwart Calif. girl’s kidnapping from blind father 4 times



LOS ANGELES  – Following the actions of several good Samaritans, a California man accused of relentlessly trying to kidnap a 6-year-old girl aboard public transportation has been arrested.

Elijah Lopez, 24, was arrested in San Diego on one felony count of kidnapping, announced Los Angeles police at a news conference Wednesday.

The incident occurred Aug. 18 while Cesar Palma, who is blind, and his 6-year-old daughter, Selena, were using public transportation to travel from Long Beach, California, back to their home in Westlake.

Police say the two were on a Metro train when they were first approached by Lopez, who engaged them in conversation then asked if he could take Selena home. Several people on the train 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,” said Los Angeles Police Capt. Alfonso Lopez. “One would think that would stop his action, but it did not.”

When the father and daughter got off the train in downtown Los Angeles, 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.

Police were not contacted, and Lopez allegedly followed the two as they boarded a bus, continuing to speak to Selena and her father until commuters came to the family’s aid for yet a third time.

“He began mimicking our 6-year-old victim’s actions, trying to create a relationship, which was so outlandish,” Capt. Lopez said.

When Palma and his daughter got off the bus and began walking home, Lopez followed. At one point, police say he physically tried to grab Selena’s hand and pull her away.

Palma held onto 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.

“I kept on turning around and yelling at him, ‘Stop following us. What’s your problem? What do you need with us?’ When he tried to grab her is when I turned around and started yelling,” said Palma Wednesday at the news conference.

Police responded but not before Lopez had fled.

Investigators eventually identified Lopez as the suspect using surveillance footage. He was arrested Sept. 2 by San Diego County Sheriff’s deputies and extradited to Los Angeles.

“Based on this individual’s actions as he was traversing the train and how he targeted this family and was relentless, we believe this was common practice for this individual,” Capt. Lopez said.

Investigators believe Lopez may have targeted other young children on public transportation in both Los Angeles and San Diego counties. Anyone with more information about his other possible victims in the area is asked to contact the LAPD.

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