MANATEE -- Victor Taylor didn’t see or hear anything when a 12-year-old girl was nearly sexual assaulted near his home Thursday.
“The camera caught it,” said Taylor, 69.
One of the several surveillance cameras at his home showed the girl jumping a fence from an apartment complex to cut through a church parking lot as she headed home from school. Seconds later, a male suspect is seen walking up to the same fence, jumping over it and running after the girl.
The girl was walking in the rear parking lot of Christ United Methodist Church in the 5500 block of 26th Street West at about 4:20 p.m. when she was grabbed from behind by the man.
Not caught on camera was what authorities said happened next: the man picked up the girl and carried her a short distance to a low hanging oak tree. The suspect then attempted to sexually assault her, but she told him there were people in the area and that he better leave.
The man then fled, which was caught on tape.
Taylor checked his footage after hearing of the incident. Shortly thereafter, deputies were asking for a copy.
On Saturday morning, Taylor got a surprise visit from the victim’s father.
“He thanked me” for sharing the tape, Taylor said. “I would have done it for anyone.”
Also Saturday, the sheriff’s office released surveillance footage from Bayshore High School, which is a short walk from Thursday’s incident. It shows a man in a dark hoodie walking on the campus. He is believed to be the suspect, said sheriff’s office spokesman Dave Bristow.
In other developments, the Gold Star Club of Manatee County announced it is offering a reward of up to $10,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the suspect.
“We formed this group just for circumstances like this so we can stimulate leads to help law enforcement on crimes like this,” said Ron Getman, club president and former county commissioner. “Ten thousand dollars is a lot of money especially in this economy. We are hoping someone who knows something will come forward.” Authorities believe the same man may have assaulted two other girls, both 15 years old:
n On Nov. 29, a girl was walking home from school in the 5100 block of 51st Street West when she was attacked. She managed to kick the attacker in the head while she was on the ground, and then ran home, the report stated. The attacker fled.
n On Jan. 31, a girl was grabbed from behind by a man in the 4900 block of 47th Avenue West, according to the Bradenton Police Department. The man sexually assaulted her and fled.
The suspect in Thursday’s incident was described as being between 30 and 40 years old, 6 feet tall with a thin build. He was wearing a dark hoodie with black basketball shorts. The description of the suspect in the Jan. 31 case was similar.
Anyone with information can call the sheriff’s office at (941) 747-3011 or Crime Stoppers at (866) 634-TIPS.