Quick-thinking and fast-moving action on the part of 11 year-old Thomas "T.J." Smith. The young super hero not only rescued his 7 year-old neighbor from a kidnapper, but also saved her from being sexually assaulted.
Here's what went down: on the afternoon of Saturday, December 10, 2016, T.J. was outside playing in his Wichita Falls, Texas neighborhood when he saw a man take his neighbor off her scooter and carry her away.
At first glance, T.J. assumed that the suspect was a family member. He quickly realized he was wrong. He explained in an interview with KAUZ that, "She was riding her scooter and he picked her up and started walking, and I chased after him. I thought it was her cousin or somebody."
T.J. alerted his neighbor, husband and dad James Ware, who ran outside to assist. Ware headed back inside to get his car keys while T.J. continued to follow the suspect, 26 year-old Raeshawn Perez, and the girl. Ware and his wife jumped in the car and followed neighbors' directions which led to an abandoned house on a nearby street. Ware's wife yelled at Perez telling him to put the girl down. It appeared that he was trying to put the girl into the house through an open window around back, as reported by the Washington Post.
According to accounts by Times Record News, Ware and another adult witness chased Perez after he unhanded the girl, tackled him to the ground, and held him until police arrived. Wichita Falls Mayor Stephen Santellana and Police Chief Manuel Borrego praised T.J. and Ware for doing the right thing:
"One of our goals is to have our citizens assist us in preventing crime, looking out for each other and being good neighbors," Borrego says. "We certainly don't want them to put themselves at risk, but in this situation, I think the bravery of this young little boy and the bravery of the two other individuals was unique and necessary and I don't think they thought twice about it."
They awarded them certificates of bravery from the city and gave T.J. a Wichita Falls Police Department member badge. He proudly wore it to school on the following Monday. Wichita Falls PD has arrested Perez and charged him with aggravated kidnapping. Police report that Perez confessed to his plans to have sex with the girl. He is being held at Wichita County Jail and his bail has been set at $50,000.
The community really stepped up in support of Ware in his efforts to rescue the young victim. Resident Pamela Brown was terrified by the afternoon's events, but she commends Ware for his bravery saying, “For him to go by himself like that and chase a man, that was awesome, but also it was scary, too. He could have got him, too.”
Ware says that going forward he plans to stay outside to keep an eye on the neighborhood children to make sure that nothing like this ever happens again. Now that, George Zimmerman, is how neighborhood watch is done.