An 18-year-old woman was able to fight off a man in a sombrero who tried to pull her into his truck in Otay Mesa West Wednesday, San Diego police (SDPD) confirmed to NBC 7.
Police responded to a call around 11:15 a.m. saying a man tried to force a woman into his red older-model truck.
The victim was walking down the street with her cell phone, when she noticed a man was following her in his car. San Diego police say the driver of the truck asked if she needed a ride. She said no and started walking quickly away.
That's when he got out, grabbed the woman and forced her into his truck. But the woman fought back, kicking the man until she was able to break free and run away, SDPD spokesman Billy Hernandez said.
"I hope she’s alright and I just pray for her family, pray for all the kids around here too. I will keep my eyes open," said Jesse Contreras, a resident who lives nearby and looks after his own daughter.
The suspect pulled up alongside the victim on the 900 block of Orchid Way, south of Palm Avenue and east of Interstate 5. The location is blocks away from the Montgomery-Waller Recreation Center and Montgomery High School.
The man got back in his truck and drove south on Hawaii Avenue, and the victim hid nearby until she felt comfortable leaving. Later, she called police at home and reported the incident.
San Diego police are investigating and looking for the suspect's red truck. The vehicle was spotted on surveillance video.
The victim was not injured, and described the suspect as a man wearing pants with holes in them and a dirty gray shirt. He also donned a gardening-style hat. Police say he appeared to be about 30 to 40 years old. He was described as 5 feet 6 inches tall, weighing about 200 pounds, with a full beard and mustache.
Neighbors were shaken by this incident because it happened in a quiet, tight-knit community. Many of the residents have lived in the area for decades without noticing anything like this before.
“For 39 years I’ve lived here. I haven’t seen these things around here. People know each other, we care about each other. When somebody goes on vacation, we look after their house," said Aida Yabit, a grandmother who lives nearby.
“I’m babysitting for my grandkids and now I’m afraid to let them walk at night," she added.
Another neighbor, Linda Olkowski, told NBC 7, she plans to explain to her daughter what to do in an emergency situation like this.
“I want to empower them to know what to do in a situation where they may be faced with having to do something for their lives. That’s hard to teach," said Olkowski.
The suspect was driving a four-door, pickup truck with a metal toolbox in the cargo bed. No other information was immediately available, said Hernandez.
“She was able to find a way to get away which is fantastic. I don’t know how she did. I don’t know by what means, but she was able to. And that’s reassuring," added Olkowski.
An investigation is ongoing. Anyone with information call call police at 619-531-2000.