Before I tell this story, a little background on good parenting around potential pedophiles.
As the father of a 6-year-old girl whom I love more than anyone else in the world, I am always on the alert when in public for the loitering ne'er-do-wells. You know them when you see them. They are the ones at shopping centers or parks or sports functions who have no purpose associated with the surrounding activity. Sometimes, these people are simply lethargic and innocuous. Sometimes, they are potential threats.
You can usually assess whether they are threats by what draws their attention (little kids and frail women), how they focus that attention (intermittent intensity), and how they express their interest (momentary puerile look on face). After reading about these sublife forms for decades, I've learned that they are often masters of deception. They will feign mostly uninterest in the objects of their lascivious desire and move to a secluded spot (often bathrooms) near their victims without any ostensive pursuit.
They are often master predators, and they know well which victims are their best prey and which moments to pounce. Any caring parent is an alert parent, fully knowledgeable that these scum are ubiquitous and that eventually they will be in proximity to our children many times during our children's lives. They are out there as I write this (and as my child sleeps) scoping out some other parents' children. If we value our children, then our protection radar is always on (even during heavy conversation with friends). We consciously evaluate every public situation for full security (usually our close proximity and ability to handle a situation) to protect our highest value (or one of our highest values).
Now, the story. A man was sitting outside of a Stone Mountain Park restroom. A female off-duty GBI agent was finishing an impromptu hike down Stone Mountain. A female off-duty sheriff's officer was about to begin a five-mile run. A 13-year-old girl was about to head toward the restroom. The park was sparsely populated because of bad weather.
The two officers noticed the man and said later that he "was acting very strangely" and "he was checking out everyone who walked by." They continued what they were doing and occasionally looked back at the man. The girl went to the restroom. The sheriff's officer looked back again at the man and didn't see him. The officer headed toward the restroom.
Once inside, she saw a man's feet sticking out of the bottom of one of the stalls as he was kneeling. She heard muffled cries. She yelled in a commanding voice for the man to release the child. Nothing happened. She yelled again. The girl exited the stall and said a strange man was inside. The officer (not armed) escorted the girl outside and yelled for someone to call 911.
The GBI agent was already headed toward the bathroom carrying her Glock, which she'd gone back to her car to retrieve. The man tried to leave the bathroom and met the GBI agent and her Glock. He surrendered. His name is Patrick Leithead. Though he had very little time with the girl, he has been charged with aggravated child molestation and remains jailed without bond in Dekalb County, GA.
The two off-duty officers are heroes. I wish I could kiss them. They did their jobs perfectly. They served and protected according to the words on their cars. The girl may grow up knowing that these two brave individuals saved from her from something horrible, if not death.
But ... where were the parents? The stories on this girl do not mention where the parents or guardians were. How could any adult with this child not notice such a man sitting idly by with sinister notice on his forehead? Perhaps the parents of this child have learned their lesson (probably not), but how many other parents out there do not take these lurking monsters seriously ALWAYS?
My thoughts go back to my dear sleeping daughter. And my commitment to her safety is steadfast.