(NEW YORK) — A California soccer coach came to the rescue after a 425-pound gangster with more than 60 prior arrests allegedly tried to kidnap one of his young players.
Santa Ana police officers arrested Victor Joseph Espinoza, of Santa Ana, Thursday, after he allegedly grabbed a 10-year-old boy who was headed to soccer practice, Officer Anthony Bertagna from the Santa Ana police said.
Espinoza allegedly approached the 10-year-old and his 19-year-old female cousin, who was accompanying him to practice at approximately 7:20 p.m. Thursday. The 425-pound man allegedly grabbed the boy and wouldn’t let go as he screamed.
The boy finally broke free and ran to practice with his cousin, where they told the soccer coach. The 10-year-old and his cousin were both very shaken by the incident, Bertagna said.
“The little boy came crying at me, saying that man wanted to take him,” the coach told ABC station KABC-TV in Los Angeles. “He said that he grabbed him and he started smelling him.”
The coach tracked down the suspect and tackled the man as he tried to run away. The coach tried to hold on to Espinoza but was unable to control him, KABC reported.
“He goes, ‘Oh, I’m leaving, I’m leaving,’ and I said, ‘No, you’re not leaving. We’re going to wait for the cops, because you did something wrong to that little boy,'” the coach told KABC. “He tried to leave and that’s when I tackled him down. I’m a parent, I worry about my kids, and I thought that I had to do something.”
A police helicopter spotted Espinoza hiding in the back yard of a nearby residence. Infrared video obtained by KABC-TV shows Espinoza hiding under a tree shortly before his arrest. The suspect would not give any details about the alleged kidnapping when he was arrested, Bertagna said.
Bertagna described Espinoza as an “old school, old time gangster.” Police have been dealing with him for 30 years and he has more than 60 prior arrests, including drug possession, assault with a deadly weapon and attempted murder, Bertagna said.
Espinoza was being held on $100,000 bail on charges including false imprisonment and child annoyance.
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