California

Sex offender abused a 6-year-old in a library — then got caught at another, cops say

A homeless sex offender in Riverside, California, sexually assaulted a 6-year-old boy he followed into a library bathroom and was arrested at another library days later, police said. He’s on probation for child porn possession.
A homeless sex offender in Riverside, California, sexually assaulted a 6-year-old boy he followed into a library bathroom and was arrested at another library days later, police said. He’s on probation for child porn possession. Riverside Police Department

A 6-year-old boy was sexually assaulted last week in a library bathroom in Riverside, California — and it only took a brief look at security footage to identify the suspect who fled.

Library surveillance footage caught Juan Francisco Palacios, a homeless 29-year-old sex offender, watching the 6-year-old as he walked through a library alone and entered the bathroom, police said. Palacios entered the bathroom just moments later and sexually assaulted the boy inside, according to police.

The boy’s father had taken the 6-year-old boy and his other young child to Riverside’s Eastside Public Library on July 18, police said. When the father realized his son had been sexually assaulted, he alerted library staff and called police around 5 p.m. Despite an “exhaustive search,” the suspect had gotten away, police said.

That’s when detectives turned to the security camera footage. Surveillance video showed Palacios quickly running out of the library on foot after the sexual assault, according to police. Then he went through a shopping center to escape, police say.

After using the footage to identify Palacios, authorities worked with county officials, probation officers, the U.S. Marshals Service and others in law enforcement to track him down.

But an arrest didn’t come until days later, when Riverside police got reports on July 22 that someone who looked like Palacios had been spotted at another library in the Southern California city.

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When officers arrived at the main branch of the Riverside Public Library just after 3:30 p.m., they confirmed the man was Palacios, detained him and questioned him, according to police.

Officers then arrested Palacios and took him to the police station, where detective questioned him further.

Palacios has now been booked at the Robert Presley Detention Center, police announced Monday. He faces one charge of sexual assault of a minor under 10, as well as charges for violating the terms of his probation.

Palacios was previously convicted of sending or possessing child pornography, according to the California sex offender registry.

He does not have an address listed on the registry website; instead, he is described as a transient living in Riverside County.

Detectives encouraged anyone with more information in the case to reach out to Riverside police.

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