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Fast food cook arrested in attempted sex assaults, kidnappings of 5 petite teens

May 4, 2010 |  3:05 pm

A 23-year-old fast food cook has been arrested in connection with at least five attempts to sexually assault and kidnap five teens in the west San Fernando Valley, police announced Tuesday.

Los Angeles police officers arrested Jose Perez of Lake Balboa in a traffic stop in Northridge on Wednesday after a man heard his 18-year-old niece scream and saw an attacker trying to force her into the back of his white SUV.

The woman was able to escape, and her uncle took down the license plate number before the attacker drove away. He gave it to officers and they pulled Perez over minutes later.

Police say Perez targeted petite teenage girls who appeared to be defenseless, sneaking up during daylight hours and trying to assault them or drag them into his vehicle. But in each incident, the girls fought back and he ran away.

"If you were to line up these girls side-by-side, they were getting progressively smaller," said Sgt. Joel Price of the Los Angeles Police Department's West Valley Division. "I think he was getting tired of losing the battles with them."

The string of attacks began in March 2009 when a man matching Perez's description approached a 15-year-old Sherman Oaks girl. He dragged her into the bushes near a classroom, sexually assaulting and punching her before running away, police said.

Police said Perez attacked another 15-year-old girl in May 2009, dragging her from the gate of her apartment building toward the silver four-door Volkswagen he was driving. After they both fell to the ground in the struggle, he drove off.

In November 2009, Perez allegedly approached a 13-year-old girl who was walking to a friend's house. Police say he grabbed her arms and pulled her toward the white GMC Yukon he was driving, but she broke free and he fled.

Two more attacks took place last week.

On April 26, a 14-year-old girl was sitting in front of an elementary school in Van Nuys when Perez drove toward her in a gray Volkswagen Jetta, police said. He parked, got out of the car and asked her questions and allegedly started to fondle her. She pushed his hand aside and walked away, but not before taking down his license plate number.

On April 28, police say, Perez tried to abduct an 18-year-old while she was walking home from a school bus stop in Northridge. Her uncle heard her scream and ran toward the attacker, who fled.

Police broadcast the description of Perez's vehicle and two officers pulled him over at Parthenia Street and Reseda Boulevard about 15 minutes later. He was arrested without incident

The victims of last week's attacks identified Perez in a lineup "without hesitation," according to detectives.  They were able to link him to the three other attacks through descriptions of two vehicles he used.

"There should be lessons learned in that these girls were all able to ward off the attacker by fighting back," Price said. "They never gave up, they were not going to allow themselves to be victimized, and they put up a valiant fight."

Perez is being held on $2.13 million bail.

Police suspect that Perez may have attacked others. Potential victims and anyone with more information is asked to call Lt. Edward Pape or Det. John Doerbecker at (818) 374-7730.

-- Tony Barboza