A man suspected of trying to abduct children as they headed to their North Philadelphia elementary school was arrested Tuesday, one day after an attack was thwarted by a group of students who threw rocks at the would-be kidnapper as he tried to drag a 10-year-old girl away by her hair.
Philadelphia Police Special Victims Unit Capt. John Darby announced Wednesday that police arrested 36-year-old Tyrone Ferguson.
"His behavior is bold and it definitely creates a threat to that community," said Darby.
Darby said Ferguson tried to abduct two children outside of a North Philadelphia school.
On Monday, around 8 a.m., police say an 8-year-old boy and his 10-year-old sister were walking to Mary McLeod Bethune School along the 1000 block of W. Venango Street when they were approached by the suspect. The man allegedly told the children, “come here” and then grabbed the boy's book bag.
Police say the boy's sister rushed over and freed him.
"Ultimately that male let go of the young male child and then attacked the female and tried to take her... as well," said Darby.
The man then allegedly grabbed the girl's hair and pulled her towards him. Nearby children then threw rocks at the suspect, knocking him down, according to investigators. The suspect then fled the scene and the girl escaped.
The children then reported the incident to the school, which contacted police.
During the incident, police say the man was wearing all-black clothing, black gloves and a ski mask.
"Recognizing the threat level we began to work almost immediately," said Darby.
As a result of the increased police presence in the area, Ferguson was identified as the suspect Tuesday night. One of his alleged victims also recognized Ferguson, according to investigators.
Ferguson, who lives not far from the school and actually went there as a child, turned himself into the Special Victims Unit Tuesday night around 9. Darby said that Ferguson was charged in Monday's incident with robbery, attempted kidnapping, false imprisonment, simple assault, luring a child and related counts. Police also say Ferguson had a cut on his forehead which was likely caused by one of the rocks that the children threw at him.
Police are also investigating a similar incident near Mary McLeod that happened Feb. 19 but wasn't reported until two days later. Police say that a 10-year-old girl was approached by a man outside the school on 3301 Old York Road. Police say the man grabbed the girl's arm but she managed to break free and he fled the scene. Ferguson has not been charged in that incident.
Officials are also investigating whether Ferguson is the same man who exposed himself to several children in the city over the past few weeks.
"Our work continues here to identify any other incidents from the past that we might be able to tie to this individual," said Darby.
Ferguson is no stranger to law enforcement. He has a slew of previous convictions including drugs incidents and serving time for a 2001 conviction for corruption of a minor, according to court records.
Despite this, those who know him insist that police have the wrong man.
"That ain't him!" said one of Ferguson's neighbors. "That ain't his character. I know him. He don't drive no car. This is his neighborhood."
Another neighbor told NBC10 Ferguson told himself in because he was scared and felt pressure from police, not because he actually committed the crimes.
"He knew he didn't do it," she said. "They had a warrant! They were kicking in doors!"
Parents, meanwhile, are relieved that an arrest was made.
"I'm glad they arrested someone," said Jareisha Penn. "But there is a lesson to be learned. We've got to watch our kids."