Kristen Fuller looked out on a sun-soaked stretch of Ortega
Circle late Monday morning in Gilroy, which on many summer days is
a street teeming with the chatter of local children. Full
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Today’s breaking news:
Kristen Fuller looked out on a sun-soaked stretch of Ortega Circle late Monday morning in Gilroy, which on many summer days is a street teeming with the chatter of local children.
“Usually by this time of day, you hear quite a bit of kids’ conversations,” Fuller said just before noon.
This day, however, the block stewed in silence five days after the second of two suspected kidnapping attempts prompted some residents to keep their children indoors and at least two Gilroy streets to take a serious look at organizing neighborhood watch programs.
“You can see there aren’t a lot of kids out,” Fuller said, pointing to the street. “There’s a lot of kids playing in backyards today.”
Fuller’s 11-year-old son was one of three children police say a man tried to lure with promises of a trip to a local restaurant around 2:49 p.m. Wednesday in the 900 block of Ortega Circle.
Police are also searching for a second suspect from what is believed to be an unrelated incident July 26, when a man driving a “dirty” black and white Honda vehicle in the 7600 block of Miller Avenue told a 10-year-old girl to get into his car.
In both incidents, the children refused the suspects’ advances and were not harmed, police said. The reported locations are a half-mile from each another and are each roughly a five-minute walk to El Roble Elementary School.
The Gilroy Police Department believes there are two suspects in the two incidents, and they have not made any arrests in either attempted child abduction. They have released a sketch of the Miller Avenue suspect, who is described as a Hispanic male approximately 30 years old with a goatee and short, balding hair or a possible crew cut.
Police do not have a sketch of the suspect from Wednesday’s incident, who is believed to be a Hispanic male, 20 to 25 years old, 5-feet-8 to 5-feet-9 inches tall and approximately 160 pounds. He is described as having shaved dark brown hair, a mustache and brown eyes.
Fuller’s son, along with two female juveniles ages 9 and 15, walked away from the situations unhurt, but neighbors remain shocked and extremely cautious, Fuller said.
“Nothing like this has ever happened before,” said Fuller, who has lived on the street for four years and has two other children, ages 5 and 13. “We’re a little on edge because this person’s out there still.”
Fuller said she and other neighbors are looking to form a neighborhood watch program, an idea Miller Avenue residents will also pursue, according to one resident there.
“Certainly we’re looking out for each other,” said Miller Avenue resident Edward, who did not want to provide his last name. “I don’t let my kids play out in the street. A lot of other people feel the same way.”
He said there were some children who lived on the street, but laughed there was “mostly dogs. Edward said the suspect was “lucky” he didn’t approach any children in front his home.
“I’d blow his brains out,” Edward said.
When asked if nearby residents had attempted an organized neighborhood watch program before, he said yes, but, “Not as organized as it’s going to be.”
GPD Sgt. Chad Gallacinao said police would stand by residents’ efforts to form neighborhood watch groups, especially since that portion of the department’s budget had been cut due to financial woes.
“Absolutely it’s something we support,” Gallacinao said, adding people were still urged to contact the GPD during emergencies. He said the GPD would provide advice to concerned parents or direct them to websites such as missingkids.com when incidents such as the two reported kidnapping attempts arise.
“The major tip we tell parents is: Talk to your kids,” Gallacinao said. “Let them know what’s expected of them. It goes back to the teachings of ‘stranger danger.'”
Gallacinao also had a tip for Gilroy children: “Yell as loud as you can as you run away. Start drawing attention to yourself.”
In a third attempted area kidnapping, this time in Morgan Hill, a Gilroy man was charged with kidnapping to commit lewd and lascivious acts for grabbing a young girl who was playing on Pine Way on June 28. Fidel Gaytan, 40, grabbed the girl and took her to a secluded area and pulled up her skirt until she pushed his hands away and escaped to tell an adult.
While Gaytan is currently in jail, Gallacinao said he didn’t know how likely it was for police to catch the two suspects, and had no way of knowing if either was a Gilroy resident.
“There’s a relatively fair chance, especially if the community is involved. The more eyes the better,” he said. ” If they’re someone who is always in transit, it would be more difficult. If they are a resident, there is a fair chance they could be located.”
Residents on Miller Avenue described the street Monday morning as mostly quiet, adding police activity was rare.
“I think it’s safe around here,” Frank Figueroa said, shrugging off the occasional “gunshots a few blocks away.”
He added, “It’s a nice, relaxing street to walk on,” and said it was mostly adults and teenagers, not young kids, living there.
David Martinez, who lives with his parents on Miller Avenue, said he did sometimes see children playing in front yards and usually didn’t question their safety.
“This is probably one of the safer neighborhoods,” said Martinez, whose family has lived in Gilroy for about 30 years.
Resident Larry Depew, who has lived on Miller Avenue for 22 years, said the only major crime-related event he could remember was a night-time robbery a few years ago at a neighbor’s house on Filice Drive across the alley way. He said hadn’t heard much about kidnapping attempts over the years.
“I think it’s pretty rare,” he said.
Rare or not, Fuller said the frightening incident has taught her children an integral lesson.
“When you get that feeling, you need to get away,” she said. “And now they understand why we don’t let them roam all over town.”
Anyone with information on this incident or the suspect can contact GPD Det. Corporal. Jason Kadluboski at 846-0425, or the GPD communications center at 846-0350. Parties wishing to remain anonymous can call 1-800-782-7463.