The 7-year-old girl was riding her scooter on her block in Wichita Falls, Texas, when the unfamiliar man approached her. An 11-year-old neighbor, one of several children playing outside on Saturday afternoon, thought at first that the man might just be her cousin.
But something seemed off about what was happening, said the 11-year-old boy, identified as TJ Smith by local television station KAUZ.
“He picked her up and started walking,” the curly-haired boy said. Realizing what he was witnessing, TJ ran to the nearest adult – a neighbor and father named Brad Ware – to ask for help.
“Brad, Brad, some guy just kidnapped this little girl,” TJ said, Ware recounted to KFDX. Ware and his wife immediately jumped off the couch and ran out the door.
Ware began following the man on foot, but soon decided to turn around, grab his keys, and drive after him with his wife. Meanwhile, TJ was running.
Neighbors who had seen the man flee with the girl pointed Ware in the direction of an alley, to a vacant house. When he got to the abandoned home, TJ was already there.
“He went behind the house,” TJ said, Ware recounted. The man looked like he was about to put the girl in a window, Ware said.
“My wife yelled at him and told him to put the child down,” Ware said. The apparent kidnapper put the child down and began running away until Ware caught up with him, tackling him to the ground and holding him there until police arrived.
Police arrested Raeshawn Perez, 26, and charged him with aggravated kidnapping, according to a police report, The Times Record News reported. In an interview with detectives, Perez said he just wanted to have sex with the little girl and then take her home.
“I’m just trying to get a little (deleted),” Perez told police, The Times Record News reported. His bail was set at $50,000 and he remained in the Wichita County Jail Monday.
When police arrived, the girl’s frantic mother told them a man had taken her 7-year-old daughter, and indicated to the officers where the man – and the neighbors – had run.
“I caught him in the street and kicked him in the groin when I had him,” Ware said. “He ran across the street, he hit the grass and that’s when I tackled him,” Ware said.
Inside the dilapidated, white home where Perez took the girl, television footage shows a burned phone book, a half empty wine bottle, a Bible and other items that made it appear someone had been staying there.
“This incident right here was an eye-opener you know,” Ware told KAUZ. “Because it could happen to anyone.”
Referring to the 11-year-old boy, he said, “You know, he’s the one that more or less saved this kid from being killed or raped, you know?” Ware said. Ware says from now on, he plans to stay outside while the neighborhood kids play.
Pamela Brown, who lives in that neighborhood, said she was terrified, but applauded TJ for taking action when he saw the man take the young girl.
“For him to go by himself like that and chase a man, that was awesome, but also it was scary too,” she said. “He could have got him too,.”
For his efforts, the Wichita Falls Police Department gave the boy an Honorary Police Member badge, which he proudly wore to school on Monday, KAUZ reported.
“If I was a little girl I would be scared too,” TJ said.