See Update No. 2 at the end of this post on the accused pleading not guilty, and police claiming he "sniffed” the boy.
See Update No. 1 on the charges against the suspect.
The question is not whether 425-pound Victor Joseph Espinoza tried to snatch a 10-year-old boy from soccer practice in Santa Ana Thursday.
The question is: Did Espinoza hide another kid in his neck?
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A 19-year-old woman was walking her cousin to soccer practice at Delhi Park when a very large man “lured” the boy over and grabbed him, according to the Santa Ana Police Department.
The boy managed to break free and run with his cousin to the soccer coach, who confronted the man, said police, who added the would-be napper tried to run away but was tackled by the coach.
But the large man could not be detained and fled. Police later arrested a man identified as 55-year-old, documented gang member Espinoza behind a home in the 500 block of East Central Avenue. He was held on suspicion of false
imprisonment, child annoying, and gang enhancements, police said.
He's lucky he's also not facing charges for failing to register a ZIP code for that neck.
UPDATE NO. 1, OCT. 10, 9:12 A.M.: Due to prior strike convictions for gang crimes and street terrorism, Espinoza could get 15 years in state prison if he is found guilty of trying to snatch the boy, according to a statement sent this morning by the Orange County District Attorney's office (OCDA).
The OCDA is seeking $250,000 bail at arraignment later this morning for Espinoza, who is charged with one felony count each of false imprisonment and street
terrorism with sentencing enhancements for committing a crime for the
benefit of a criminal street gang and a prior strike conviction for
street terrorism in 2007.
The 55-year-old tried to break the ice with the boy walking to soccer practice in Delhi Park around 7:20 p.m. by asking the 10-year-old if he wanted to see the large man's gang tattoo, according to the OCDA.
Message to the soccer team: How about holding those practices for boys that age earlier in the day?
UPDATE NO. 2, OCT. 10, 3:11 P.M.: At today's arraignment hearing, which had Victor Joseph Espinoza pleading not guilty to charges that could send him to prison for 15 years, a Santa Ana Police account disclosed that after the 55-year-old held out his arm to show off his gang tattoo, he allegedly grabbed, picked up and “sniffed” the boy.
Despite the 10-year-old yelling for help, Espinoza would not let go, according to police. The boy eventually broke free and ran to his coach for help. Deputy District Attorney Rahul Gupta singled both out for bravery. The prosecutor also urged other possible victims to come forward.
As expected, bail was set at $250,000. Espinoza is due back in court Oct. 18 for a pretrial hearing.
Matt Coker has been engaging, enraging and entertaining readers of newspapers, magazines and websites for decades. He spent the first 13 years of his career in journalism at daily newspapers before “graduating” to OC Weekly in 1995 as the paper’s first calendar editor. He went on to be managing editor, executive editor and is now senior staff writer.