Note: we are republishing this story to raise awareness about the increase in reported human trafficking incidents and abductions in America during the coronavirus pandemic.
A boy from Wichita Falls, Texas, was responsible for saving a 7-year-old girl from being abducted.
Residents in the neighborhood where the alleged attempted abduction took place said they were shocked by what happened, but grateful that 11-year-old TJ Smith took action to save the victim. TJ says he saw Raeshawn Perez grab the 7 year old girl. TJ proceeded to alert his mother.
"It overwhelmed me," TJ's mother, Angela Smith, told the Times Record News. "He came in and told me about it, but you know they play outside all the time. I didn't know it was actually what it was until it was all recognized. I was very proud of him."
TJ told KAUZ he knew what he had to do when he saw the man take the girl.
"If I was a little girl I would be scared too," he said. "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."
The boy also ran to the home of a neighbor, James Ware, who rushed into action.
"So I ran out the door," Ware said. "By the time I got out the door I ran about a quarter of the way down the alley, and I said well forget that, turned around and went back in the house and got the keys."
Ware and some neighbors tracked Perez down at a vacant house, where TJ had already chased him to.
"He pointed behind the house, and said he went behind the house," Ware said. "I pulled into the alley and threw it in park. My wife yelled at him and told him to put the child down. He was about to put her in a window."
Ware approached Perez, who he says was attempting to put the girl through a window, and the man gave up and started running. Ware chased him down and held him until police arrived.
"This incident right here was an eye-opener you know, because it could happen to anyone," Ware said.
Wichita Falls Mayor Stephen Santellana told the Times Record News he was grateful for all of the people who helped stop Perez.
"It's one of my proudest moments," he said. "I represent the city of Wichita Falls and for me to represent three citizens like this, especially one who's 11 years old, that keeps his wits about him and uses a little bit of bravery to help stop something that we don't know what would have happened. Right now, we have a little girl that's safe at home because of an 11-year-old and two other individuals who stepped up as community members."
Perez was arrested and jailed for attempting to kidnap the girl.
"TJ is definitely a hero!" one reader commented on Facebook. "So are the men that believed TJ and stopped this horrible individual. There is hope for all when people take a stand against Evil!"
"Sick sob," another wrote. "Don't get it....why these perverts will be allowed to walk free again. Their victims will be ruined for the rest of their lives. I say since they like to rape children maybe they should be put in general population in prison and the guards go to a long lunch and let them see what it feels like to be raped over and over again!!!!!!!!!"
"What a great hero he is to get adult to help in saving the little girl!" commented another. "Bravo! We need more people like this boy in the world! It just might make this world a better place to live in! Is a start in the right direction."