Friday, June 14, 4:40 pm. I got off the bus in El Cajon at Washington and Magnolia. From a distance I see what I think is a grandmother, mother and children crossing the street. We walk toward each other. As we cross paths the kids call my attention and tell me, "He's kidnapping her!" I look and the person I thought was a mother is a man with a crazy look on his face wearing a hijab. The first thought that comes to mind is not cross-dresser, but suicide bomber disguised as a woman.
I double-check to make sure it's not some kind of joke. Are you serious? They are. My impression is a crazy guy got loose and found a woman outside in her wheelchair possibly unattended for a moment, he grabbed her and took off down the street with her. Neither the man nor the elderly woman were speaking English. But the man was saying one word, “mom.” He was claiming the woman is his mother. But the kids were saying he is not supposed to be near her and is kidnapping her.
When I try to talk to the man he turns around and goes back in the direction he came from. I follow and call 911, though it's hard to see my phone screen in the sun and I have a hard time pressing my security code to open up my phone. The response of every button I press seems to lag in response. The man is pushing the wheelchair erratically and the look on his face gets crazier. I become concerned he is going to dart out into the street and get this woman run over by a car. So I try to follow him and stay on the street side of him. At the intersection he crosses the same street I saw them crossing earlier going back the other direction. He is crossing against a red without looking for cars, so I catch up and walk beside him so I can call attention to any cars that might possibly hit them. All the while the four kids are screaming at the man telling him to let the woman go.
After crossing the street I debate whether to restrain the man. Can I restrain him and stop the woman from rolling into the street or down the sidewalk at the same time? The kids are doing great, but they couldn’t even get a 911 call through. I had to take care of that. I have a backpack on my back, a second bag around my shoulder, hot tea in one hand and my phone in the other. I have to lose my bags and the tea. The man quickens his pace. I tell the 911 operator there is a crazy-looking man wearing a hijab pushing an elderly woman in a wheelchair and children are telling me he’s kidnapping her. I tell her where we are, two major streets, and which side of the street. She doesn’t get it. She asks me where we are located. . I have to repeat myself. The man starts sprinting down the sidewalk still pushing the woman. I get frustrated trying to deal with the 911 call, which is necessary because the presence of police is necessary, and wanting to protect the woman myself at the same time. He turns towards an apartment complex at 743 S. Magnolia, where it crosses Patricia Lane. As he passes from the parking lot to the courtyard he must have hit a bump because the woman went flying to the ground. The children surround them and continue yelling at the man. He grabs the woman and tries lifting her up but he drops her.
More people come to the scene. I ask a girl what the address is. She tells me and I pass it on to the 911 operator. I ask her if she has dispatched police to the scene. She says she’s needs more information first. I already told her there was a kidnapping of an elderly woman in progress. I told her the location several times then gave her an exact address. And she is telling me that is not enough to dispatch police? I tell her to do her job and send police immediately to the address I gave her.
The man is getting pretty rough with with the woman, grabbing her pretty hard and in a very uncomfortable looking way, and repeatedly picks her up and drops her. I try telling him to leave her so someone else can take care of getting her back in her wheelchair.
I ask the 911 operator if police are on the way. She asks me for a detailed description of all the people there including myself and my name, etc.. I tell her the police can get all that info once they arrive. Time to lose the phone and this operator. I tell her I have to deal with what’s going on and I hang up.
The kids are trying to physically stop the man from continuing to grab this woman and pick her up. He gets physical with them. So I grab him and walk him ten feet away and tell him to stay back. But he’s determined to press through me so I push him harder. He falls on his back in a thorn push. I tell him to stay down. He keeps trying to get up and I keep pushing his shoulders down.
At this point the courtyard is filled with a crowd of residents from the apartments. A man tells me the woman is the man’s mother. I see the look of despair in his eyes. How can you separate me from my mother? I sympathize. But he’s obviously sick in his mind and has to be separated from her. I let him up. Now the majority of the crowd, one woman in particular, are now blocking him from getting back to the woman.
They are saying the mother has a restraining order against her son. They are saying he’s not allowed to be with her because he has beaten her in the past. I have to hold the man back one more time when he tries pressing toward his mother. A few minutes later he gets physical with the woman who was telling him to stay back. Her son grabs the man and the man starts punching the boy in the side. So I grab him again and tell him to calm down.
One of the original kids runs down the street to retrieve my bags for me. Good kids. I’m proud of them for being defenders instead of bystanders and caring about protecting my property for me instead of thinking about stealing it. They showed a great level of concern for this woman, who it turns out they aren’t even related to. But they are neighbors.
It felt longer but the first police officer arrived fifteen minutes after I called 911. The man was placed in handcuffs. I gave my statement.
The entire time I didn’t know whether this elderly woman wanted to go for a walk with her son, despite the apparent restraining order against him, and was upset with the children and me for putting a stop to it or whether she was under duress and it was a full fledge kidnapping.
The only communication I received from her was her extending her hand toward me with her palm down. It looked kind of like she was trying to shoo me away. But it’s possible she was trying to reach out for help. Does shooing away mean something else in middle eastern culture?
Later a police officer called me and thanked me. He said the woman was grateful for what I did and that she was under duress.