A homeless man began to grab a 6-year-old girl at a Southern California laundromat on Monday and posed a chilling question to the child’s mother, according to authorities.
“Can I have her?” Alan Flores, 28, asked the mother of two as he grabbed the child around 12:30 p.m., according to police in Santa Ana, California.
The mother shooed Flores away from her daughters, 6 and 10, police said. But Flores then targeted other laundromat customers — a father and his young daughter — who were sitting against a wall, according to police. That girl became uncomfortable as Flores walked up, and she moved to her father’s lap, surveillance video shows.
Then Flores went back to the mother of two and again asked if he “could have” the 6-year-old girl, Anthony Bertagna, a Santa Ana police spokesman, said in a phone interview with McClatchy.
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“He was quite brazen,” Bertagna said. “The place was packed full of people.”
Flores was arrested on his bicycle outside the laundromat moments later, after a bystander “shoved” him out of the business to keep him from assaulting the child, according to police.
The children in the laundromat weren’t the only victims Flores went after that day, police said: He also swatted the butts of multiple girls on a sidewalk as he rode away from the laundromat around 12:50 p.m., surveillance video shows.
A witness flagged down police after the sidewalk incident, and then officers learned of the attempted kidnapping in the laundromat, police said.
Flores faces charges of attempted kidnapping of a child under 14, touching a person intimately against their will for sexual arousal and annoying or molesting a victim under 18, police said.
Authorities said they’re still looking for the father and daughter Flores approached, and for anyone else who may have encountered Flores in similar circumstances.
Flores said the girls on the sidewalk — the ones whose butts he swatted — were “flirting with him,” Bertagna said. But video shows that they didn’t have a conversation with him, and that they recoiled when he touched them, according to police.
Bertagna said authorities are still investigating where Flores is from and if he has a criminal history.
Customers at the laundromat said the business is often busy — and full of children, NBC reports.
“There’s a lot of kids every time I come here,” said customer Brenda Chopin, NBC reports. “Sometimes I don’t see their mothers.”
Another customer agreed, adding that the laundromat can be a tough environment to care for children, KTLA reports.
“It’s dangerous,” said regular customer Erica Navarro, according to KTLA. “You need to keep an eye on kids. It’s hard when you’re doing laundry, but you need to see clearly.”
Flores was set to appear in court on Wednesday and is being held on $100,000 bail, according to the TV station.