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O.C. deputies search for suspect who took boy's pants

March 12, 2013 |  7:10 pm

An attack on a 12-year-old boy who was thrown to the ground and had his pants stolen in a south Orange County playground was probably a strange prank and not an intended sexual assault, as authorities first thought, sheriff's deputies said.

Two children playing on a swing set at Ladera Ranch Elementary School were approached Sunday about 7:30 p.m. by a suspect wearing a hoodie and a bandana on his face and wielding a pocket knife, said Jim Amormino of the Orange County Sheriff’s Department.

One of the children ran to get help, and the other child was dragged 10 to 15 feet, ordered to take off his pants and then told to take off his underwear, Amormino said.

The child grabbed wood chips from the playground and hurled them at the suspect’s face before running and flagging down a motorist, who called 911.

The incident prompted the Sheriff’s Department to send more than two dozen investigators to the Ladera Ranch area. Deputies knocked on about 700 doors as part of their investigation, Amormino said.

After about 150 phone calls from concerned residents and about 100 interviews, the department discovered that two days before the incident, another young male had his pants taken in the same area.

“It was the same method of operation but not reported to police,” Amormino said.

Investigators now believe that the suspect could be a juvenile, and are examining a grainy video of a person of interest seen leaving the park.

“I do want to put the community’s fears at ease,” Amormino said. “It was not a kidnapping attempt and it was not a sexual assault attempt.”

The department is continuing to investigate the incident, and will be in the area Tuesday night handing out fliers.

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-- Nicole Santa Cruz

twitter.com/nicolesantacruz

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