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Inglewood gang member arrested on suspicion of raping runaway Menlo Park girl

February 11, 2010 |  1:56 pm

A reputed Inglewood gang member has been arrested on suspicion of rape after police said he befriended a 14-year-old runaway from Northern California and held the teenage girl against her will at Venice Beach, authorities said Thursday.

Kevin Escobar, 20, is being held on $175,000 bail for a parole violation after his arrest by Los Angeles police detectives Wednesday night. Police investigators believed he held the girl for several weeks by threats and other means.

"This guy is a classic predator and he was looking for a certain type," said Kurt Wachter, the detective who oversees the LAPD's sexual assault detail for the West Bureau. "Unfortunately, he found her. But I'm really glad she had the strength to come forward and disclose this."

Wachter said the girl arrived at Union Station three weeks ago after running away Jan. 7 from her Menlo Park home -- a highly publicized case in the Bay Area.

It was there she met and befriended Escobar, a transient and gang member from Inglewood who had a long criminal record, police said.

Playing on the girl's naivete and her lack of familiarity with the area, Escobar took the teen to Venice Beach. Escobar also plied her with drugs and alcohol while threatening to hurt her or commit suicide if she left him, Wachter said.

Escobar took the girl around the beach area and when necessary sought shelter in the pagodas, bathrooms and under the lifeguard towers.

Eventually, she realized "how bad things were," Wachter said and went to the Culver City Police Department, which called her family. They were reunited Jan. 30.

Los Angeles police detectives were contacted Tuesday by Menlo Park police, and within a day Escobar was arrested without incident and held on a parole violation for allegedly carrying a concealed weapon. He could be charged as early as next week.

-- Andrew Blankstein