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Boy Safe After Fleeing Man Is Captured

Safety: Neighbors help hold suspect who allegedly grabbed child in 5-year-old's backyard.

July 28, 2002|STEPHANIE CHAVEZ | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A screaming mother managed to swoop her 5-year-old son away from a bare-chested man who had scaled their backyard fence in Lomita and allegedly grabbed hold of the boy, while her husband and neighbors gave chase and pinned the intruder to the ground.

The events lasted only minutes, Suzanne and David Arnado said Saturday, but it will give them chills for a lifetime.

"My child was playing in his own backyard. We have a locked gate. My husband and I were watching him and something like this can happen," said Suzanne, 32, breaking into tears as she recounted the episode. "What is this world coming to?"

The couple said they may never know what Randall Turner, 51, intended to do after allegedly taking Vincent by the arm Friday evening. Turner was being held Saturday on suspicion of false imprisonment, a felony.

Los Angeles County Sheriff's Sgt. Janice Munson said detectives were still investigating Turner's intentions. The initial inquiry supports the neighbors' account of what happened, she said. Munson praised their quick response.

"For that many residents to get involved, it's great, just fabulous," she said. Munson described Turner as a local resident. Authorities will present charges of false imprisonment and annoying or molesting a child to prosecutors for review, she said.

The family had just returned to their Oak Street neighborhood home from their son's T-ball game and were deciding what to make for dinner when Vincent asked to go out back to play.

Theirs is a backyard equipped for a boy: a big swing set, balls, trucks and a beagle puppy named Snoopy to play with. The wood gate is not only 8 feet tall, it's padlocked.

The couple decided on spaghetti, and Suzanne was headed to the market to buy some ground turkey. That's when they say they heard the wrought-iron security door leading to the patio slam shut.

"We look over, and there is a man standing in the back, long hair in a ponytail, no shirt, just shorts," David Arnado, 35, said. "He has one hand holding the door shut and my son's arm in the other hand."

Who is this guy? What's he doing in my backyard? Do I know him? All these questions came to mind in "half a second," David said.

Suzanne belted out what her next-door neighbor described as "a blood-curdling scream," crying, "Call 911! Call 911! A man has my boy!"

David, pumped with adrenaline, threw himself against the heavy door with enough thrust to jar it open and throw the intruder off balance, he said.

The man let go of Vincent in the stumble. Suzanne grabbed her boy in her arms and ran inside the house, still screaming for help.

Neighbor Mary Ellen Walsh dialed 911. But she wasn't sure what to report. "You need to come fast. My neighbor is screaming something about her son," Walsh said she told the operator.

David, alone with the man, threw a lawn chair at him, shouting, "Get out! Get out!"

More neighbors heard the shouts--not a typical argument, thought Martin Cordelo, who lives in an apartment behind the Arnados.

Moments earlier, Cordelo had pulled into his carport and saw a man "with a crazed look in his eyes" climb a nearby telephone pole. "I put two and two together," he said, got back in the car and drove around the corner to help his neighbor.

As the intruder tried to jump another fence to escape, David pushed him over the top. "I just wanted to get him out of my backyard," he said.

The father continued the chase, joined now by two other men. At his next-door neighbor's house David caught Turner and slammed him into a wall. The father and several others held Turner down until deputies arrived.

Deputies transported Turner to a local hospital to treat his minor injuries, a spokesman said. He was being held at the sheriff's Lomita station in lieu of $25,000 bail.

Just last week, frightened by the kidnapping and death of Samantha Runnion in Stanton, Suzanne had gone over all the rules with her son. Never did she think she would be moved to enforce a new one:

"Never again will he be allowed to play alone in his own backyard."

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