San Diego

Deputy Arrested, Accused of Groping Teen in Line at Vista Restaurant

Timothy Wilson, Jr., a 10-year veteran of the department, has been booked on one count of felony lewd act on a child.

A uniformed sheriff deputy was arrested Friday in connection with the groping of a teenage girl while the girl was standing in line at a Vista restaurant, San Diego County Sheriff's Department announced.

Timothy Wilson Jr. was taken into custody at the Vista Detention Facility and booked into the San Diego Central Jail on one count of a felony lewd act on a child.

He's accused of an incident that involved a 14-year-old girl standing in line at a Panda Express restaurant in Vista Village on March 21.

"It is very disappointing we are still in shock," said Jenna Tanais, the victim's mother. "That someone in his position would betray the community's trust like that." 

The victim said a man walked behind her and grabbed her inappropriately.

By the time she turned around, she said the suspect was nearly out of the building.

She shared her story with NBC 7 the day after the incident with hopes that it would give others the courage to speak up in similar situations, though she didn't want to at first.

"I was kind of not sure about it because I am shy and it was like weird," she told NBC 7 on Friday. "But I was thinking how it can help a lot of people and so I was like, 'Ya, I need to say it.'"

A surveillance camera positioned above the entrance of the restaurant showed how the man walked in and took his place in line. 

He stood with both hands in his pockets for about 15 seconds before he was seen taking a step forward and reaching out with his left arm and apparently grabbing the victim out of the frame.

Within seconds the suspect left. He ran to a black sedan parked in front of the store and drove off.

"It was scary knowing that if I go out that he was still out there and he could come again," she said.

In early April, detectives released images and video of the incident asking for the public's help to solve the case. 

“On May 9, a sheriff’s employee recognized Timothy Wilson Jr. as a possible lookalike suspect,” San Diego Sheriff Bill Gore said.

When asked why it took a month for the department to find the suspect in its own ranks, Gore said the employee reported his suspicions on the same day he saw the video. 

Tanais said she is relieved the suspect is off the street.

"I have spent every day since this happened worrying that he was harming another child somewhere," she said. 

Wilson is a 10-year veteran of the department. In his role as a detentions deputy at the Vista jail, he's responsible for the care and custody of people in custody. 

"It's kind of sad because he is supposed to be someone that will protect people, but instead he is doing that," the victim said.

The deputy has been placed on unpaid administrative leave pending the investigation and the criminal case, Gore said. Wilson is being held in the downtown jail on $200,000 bail. 

"He worked in the Vista jail, it seems to me to be pretty logical to not put him back in the same jail he was working in," Gore said. 

There was no reason to believe there are other victims, he said. 

Gore said the department has an exhaustive background investigations process. For every 125 applicants to this department, he said only one deputy is hired. 

"We raise our kids to trust the police and go to the police if you are in trouble and it is really a sense of betrayal that your child is being victimized by the people she is supposed to trust," Tanais said.

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