Sunday Commentary: Attempted Kidnapping An Eye Opener for Davis, Parents

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attempted-kidnapping

Perhaps it was growing up during stranger-danger time, when kids became aware, even in small towns and the suburbs, of the potential of kidnapping, but I’ve always been irrationally overly-protective of my kids.  Whereas, as a school child in the 80s, I was often walking or biking around town with friends and even by myself, I’m much more reluctant to allow my kids to do the same.

I say irrational because kidnapping by strangers is actually a fairly rare event.  But why risk it?

The other day when  I saw the report of the attempted kidnapping on Wednesday it was an eye opener and a reminder that all is not safe in Davis land.  The incident happened at 4 pm, not broad daylight perhaps this time of year, but not at an hour we would think of as unsafe.

Moreover, it happened in the area of Oceano Way and Arena Drive – not exactly a place we would think of, to worry about our kids.

It immediately caught my attention because of where it was located and the fact that we know school-aged children in the area.  As it turned out, we found later that night that the girl was a classmate and friend of our 13-year-old.

She told a small number of her classmates what happened.  Our 13-yr-old observed scrapes on her wrist where the perpetrator attempted to grab her and apparently she hit him with her backpack, and was able to pull away and run away and hide in some bushes, where she phoned her father. Her father picked her up and reported the incident to police.

Scary.

Good and quick thinking by the girl helped her out.  Davis children are definitely resourceful, but she also got very lucky.   The victim in this case was able to give the police a solid ID.

Perhaps so did the police get lucky.  Yesterday, they announced the arrest of a Davis man they think committed the crime.

In a press release, they stated, “Following an intensive investigation, Davis Police detectives were able to secure a search warrant for 27 year old Davis resident Sander Ian Findlay. Findlay was arrested following the search. Findlay was lodged at Yolo County Jail and the investigation will be sent to the District Attorney for charging.”

Police Chief Darren Pytel would not tell the Vanguard the details that led to the arrest of Mr. Findlay, citing the nature of the ongoing investigation. The police indicated that in this case there had been a number of reports of a man seen with a mask around young children – with police indicating that, while this was a concern, it is not illegal to wear a mask and he had not been contacted while committing a crime.

However, from the community’s standpoint it would seem prudent for the police to release as many details as possible about this incident.

A good friend of mine actually lives on the same street where this incident occurred, and has children right around the age of the victim in this case.  We were talking about this on Friday, and she told me that she would like to allow her kids to walk their dog alone, but she’s always been reluctant to do so.

It is a sad state of affairs that a junior high-aged child in Davis cannot walk their dog alone – and again, maybe it’s the overprotective helicopter parent mentality that abides here in Davis, but who wants to worry about the unthinkable which, for one family, very nearly became the state of affairs for their lives?

I’ve always been reluctant to allow my 13-year-old to have a phone – after all, it becomes yet another distraction, between playing games and texting friends.  In this case, her phone perhaps saved her.

The school district put out a couple of alerts on Thursday.  We got a message from Kerin Kelleher, the Harper Junior High Principal, who said in an email: “Due to a concerning incident after school on Dec. 14, 2017 we feel it is important to review this information with you.  Please take time to once again have a conversation with your child about how to stay safe when traveling between home and school.”

But it seems like we need to do more than just have a conversation with our kids.  We need a plan – strategies.  And we need to be mindful that, just because Davis is a relatively safe and low crime community, particularly with violent crimes, it does not mean that there are not people in our midst that might be dangerous.

It may be hard to predict who is dangerous and who isn’t.

For instance, the alleged perpetrator in this case has a recent criminal record including a DUI in October 2015 and a misdemeanor with a violation of probation – nothing that would suggest he would be a potential kidnapper.

But one final note on a theme that the Vanguard has covered – right now he is in custody at Yolo County Jail.  His bail is set at $500,000 with an arraignment scheduled for Wednesday.

Here’s the kicker and we have discussed bail reform – what if he were able to post $50,000 to get a bail bond?  Would that make him less dangerous than a person who couldn’t come up with that kind of money?  Just another example of why the bail system doesn’t make a lot of sense.

In the meantime, it is good to learn lessons in incidents that turn out all right for the victim.  Next time, we may not be so lucky, so, in the meantime, we have a chance to re-think how our kids get to and from school.  It is unfortunate, but it is the world we live in, even in Davis.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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44 thoughts on “Sunday Commentary: Attempted Kidnapping An Eye Opener for Davis, Parents”

  1. citizendavis

    Mr. Findlay is a perfect example of what happens when you have mental illness and a family that won’t or can’t help you.

    He lived on my block in South Davis for about a year. I even interacted with him a few times (strangely by the way; it made me so uncomfortable). He was clearly in need of mental help.  His actions were getting more and more weird. At one point through his landlord I was able to connect on the phone with a relative who lives nearby. The rest of his family lives out east I believe.  I told her what was going on with Mr. Findlay in our neighborhood and that it was getting worse. I said that he was really in need of help. And you know what she said to me? She said that probably something bad needed to happen in order for him to finally get help. I was so mad because I felt like it was his family’s responsibility to take care of him.

    And now here we are. Countless more people freaked out by him, a crime and a victim who will be scarred for live. Sad.

    I hope our Davis residents don’t get too scared of stranger danger. It really is quite a rare occurrence. What isn’t so rare is mental illness being left untreated until something really bad happens.

    1. South of Davis

      citizendavis wrote:

      > I was so mad because I felt like it was his family’s

      > responsibility to take care of him.

      Thanks for your post, but as a friend of two different families that have adult children with serious issues (a manic depressive that often stops taking lithium and a guy with a crystal meth problem) the courts won’t really let the family do anything (other than get a 24 hr phych hold when the person totally snaps).  I don’t want to defend the family but from what I know “something bad needs to happen in order to get help from the government”.  If a family member takes drugs away the cops will arrest you for theft and if you force a door open to try and talk someone in to getting back in lithium the cops will arrest you for breaking and entering.

      1. citizendavis

        This may have been the case with Mr. Findlay’s family.  You are exactly right… There is only so much a family can do when the person with mental illness is an adult.

    2. quielo

      I have been through this with family and there is little anyone can do under our current system. I had the PET team on speed dial but 72 hour holds don’t do much.

    3. hpierce

      This “stranger danger” thing bugs me… over 50 years ago, some guy tried to abduct me, by inviting me into his car to help direct him to a park [after I had actually given him directions, assuming his question was legitimate].  I declined, walked about a block to my house, calmly told my mom, and she called the police, and I was interviewed by an officer, was able to give him a good description of the guy and the car.

      I never was “afraid”, or thought in terms of “danger”.  My parents taught me to be aware of surroundings and act accordingly.  [I was 9]

      I think putting safety training in terms of  “stranger danger” only frightens and makes kids paranoid.  And, worse, could spill out into other views… met the first black and asian kids about 3 years later… I wonder how I would have felt about interacting with them had I been taught in terms of  ‘stranger danger’.

      Safety/awareness training is good and important.  Whether learning to ride a bike on the street, walking alone, etc.  We taught our kids to observe, think, act.  We did not teach “fear”.

      The young lady appears to have done everything right… good for her, and good for her parents.  And to extent that she also drew on her ‘training’ (if any) from the schools, good for them, too.  I strongly suspect she’ll be just fine if folk keep away from telling her “what if” scenarios, or telling her “how lucky she was”.

    4. Alan Miller

      . . .  and a victim who will be scarred for live.

      Actually that little girl sounds like a badass.  I think she’ll likely feel empowered, not scarred.  Had he been “successful”, whatever that might have involved, another story.

  2. South of Davis

    BP wrote:

    > I accidentally posted this on the wrong thread, please remove

    To tie two threads together I bet we will never read a story about an illegal alien named Hector Gonzalez trying to kidnap a Davis kid on the Vanguard…

    David wrote:

    >  what if he were able to post $50,000 to get a bail bond?  Would

    > that make him less dangerous than a person who couldn’t come

    > up with that kind of money?

    If you look at actual statistics guys with big bail amounts are “less” likely to re-offend while out on bail as well as jump bail.

    I’m wondering if David thinks that if a Dad says he tried to kidnap the guys daughter that we should lock him up without bail (to protect the kids) without trial?

    P.S. The reason my kids ride their bikes around town alone is that so many Davis parents think I am crazy and don’t let their kids go with them…

    1. Alan Miller

      The reason my kids ride their bikes around town alone is that so many Davis parents think I am crazy and don’t let their kids go with them…

      Good for you SofD.  Ironically, the helicopter SUV paranoia is hurting the atmosphere, child brains, and safety in numbers, a situation in which almost never is anyone abducted.

  3. South of Davis

    Did this guy have a van running with the door open when he grabbed the girls arm?

    If he didn’t have a vehicle running nearby to toss her in to I think the headline should read:

    “Crazy Person Grabbing Girls Arm An Eye Opener for Davis, Parents” (since not many “kidnappers” plan to just walk through a neighborhood  like Lake Alhambra to get the screaming victim back to their apartment (that they have converted in to a “dungeon” )…

    1. WesC

      So true SOD.  “Crazy Person Grabbing Girls Arm An Eye Opener for Davis, Parents” is much more accurate but unfortunately not sensational enough.  I wouldn’t be surprised if the hysteria evolves into this guy being a closet “Hannibal the Cannibal” just waiting for the right hapless victim to come along.  The DA can certainly be counted on to stack some more charges on this guy, and he could very likely ending up serving a lengthy prison sentence.

      I always thought the Lake Alhambra Estates neighborhood was full of criminal activity and psychopaths. Now my fears are confirmed!!!

    2. Tia Will

      SOD

      Did this guy have a van running with the door open when he grabbed the girls arm?”

      I think that you may be too focused on the deliberate planning aspect of this event. If indeed this individual does have a severe mental disorder, I would not think of that as making him any less dangerous. Just less predictable in his actions because he may not be perceiving cause and effect in the same way that we might and thus might be less likely be behave in what we would see as a logical manner.

      1. South of Davis

        Tia wrote:

        > I think that you may be too focused on the deliberate

        > planning aspect of this event.

        I was focusing on what happened, not what “might” have happened.

        Why not say “Sunday Commentary: Attempted Murder in Lake Alhambra An Eye Opener for Davis, Parents” (since we don’t know what the guy was planning).

        P.S. To David was he charged with “attempted kidnapping” or “grabbing an arm” ($50K sounds like a low bail amount if the DA is planning to prove to a jury that he was going to bring this girl back to his apartment and make her his slave)…

        1. Tia Will

          SOD

          Did this guy have a van running with the door open when he grabbed the girls arm?”

          I was focusing on what happened, not what “might” have happened.”

          You clearly deviated from the actual facts to speculation  of what he might have been thinking and how he did not seem to be “planning ahead”. That was the only aspect of your post that I was addressing.

        2. South of Davis

          Tia wrote:

          > You clearly deviated from the actual facts to speculation

          I was not “speculating” I was asking questions I have no idea if he had a van or what the police charged him with…

    3. South of Davis

      WesC wrote:

      > I always thought the Lake Alhambra Estates neighborhood was

      > full of criminal activity and psychopaths.

      I remember hearing something about “Lake Alhambra Estates” wanting to “gate” the neighborhood after it was built (to keep out the riff-raff that lives South of Davis and drives old beat up cars).  I wonder if this “attempted kidnapping” will bring back the push for the gates…

      1. hpierce

        Actually, the concept of a gated “Lake Alhambra” area goes back to the original proposals for the area.  It was shot down.  Basically, the developer was told, if you want public streets, there will be standard public access… developer withdrew the proposal.

    4. Alan Miller

      “Crazy Person Grabbing Girls Arm An Eye Opener for Davis, Parents”

      So true, SofD.

      I predict this incident will actually cause Davis childhood obesity, destroy the Ozone layer and require an even more accelerated schedule for Davis road repairs, given the massive increase in SUVs pounding the pavement and burning fuel each schoolday.  Of course, the destruction of the Ozone layer won’t cause an increase in skin cancer in the Davis school-age children population, as they will be locked inside out of view of strangers and the sun.

      1. Barack Palin

         they will be locked inside out of view of strangers and the sun….and Trump

        We already know how many Davis parents have scared the dickens out of their children over Trump winning the election.

         

  4. hpierce

    Here’s the kicker and we have discussed bail reform – what if he were able to post $50,000 to get a bail bond?  Would that make him less dangerous than a person who couldn’t come up with that kind of money?  Just another example of why the bail system doesn’t make a lot of sense.

    What would be the alternative?  Release him on his own recognizance [gotta assume innocence, right?]?  Assume he is guilty, and and incarcerate him without bond? Until the court gets around to trial?

    Please share any alternatives to the current system… better to light a candle than curse the darkness…

    Am going to bet that when bail was offered in this case, it was set at a height that the Court is pretty damn sure they cannot meet.

    1. Tia Will

      hpierce

      Please share any alternatives to the current system”

      I would like to propose an alternative. I think that hospitalization in a mental health facility with a locked ward would be a better alternative. This would allow for evaluation of his actual mental state in a more comprehensive manner while serving to protect the community at the same time. He could be held in such a facility until such time as his guilt or innocence is determined and he is deemed either safe or unsafe to return to the community.

      1. hpierce

        He is not charged with being mentally ill.  His family have apparently not sought to have him evaluated.  Even the mentally ill have due process rights unless they are currently an imminent threat to themselves or others.  Then, it’s a 72 hour hold.

        And, my question (quoted) was general… will assume that you mean ‘in this case’, in your response.

        It is not a crime to be mentally ill.  What you propose, given the time it will take to arraign, try, and have a jury determine the outcome, amounts to imprisonment without the possibility of release, bail or OR.  And that mental ward bed will not be available for someone who seeks help for their crisis.

        Is that really what you suggest?

         

    2. South of Davis

      David wrote:

      > People are held without bail all the time

      For things like “killing their next door neighbors”, not for “grabbing a girls arm”…

      P.S. I don’t hear about every case so if I am wrong about people accused of “grabbing a girls arm” commonly being held without bail until trial “all the time” please post some links…

    3. hpierce

      I guess David, you then are suggesting that those accused of embezzlement be held in jail without bail, until the matter is fully adjudicated.  No bail, as “bail system is broken”.  Do you really mean that?

      There are felonies that are not violent.  Giving OR to all of those (again, avoiding that evil bail thing) who embezzle sure makes flight a reasonable choice as opposed to showing up to court.

      Right now there is remand (custody until adjudicated), bail, or OR release. OR release is not appropriate in this matter.

      Hopefully, between DA, defense and judge, there will be a psych hold and evaluation in this case.

       

    1. Tia Will

      Frankly

      But instead of working on this problem, we spend our time and energy crying….”

      I believe that we are fully capable of focusing on more than one issue at the same time. I believe that you do too since you frequently comment on multiple issues on multiple threads simultaneously. I think the real issue here might ( yes, just might be, since I do not know what is in your head) that you do not like it when people express reservations about the outcome of the election and how it may affect our future.

       

      1. Barack Palin

        What?  Did I miss something here? Was Trump somehow responsible for Findlay’s actions?  Was he wearing a red “Let’s make America Great Again” hat?

        (satire)

      1. Frankly

        I think that is a possibility.  Democrats in charge certainly didn’t do anything.  My thinking is that they liked having insane people out there with guns because it increased the potential for gun death events that can be milked in the media for their anti-gun agenda.

        1. Alan Miller

          My thinking is that they liked having insane people out there with guns because it increased the potential for gun death events that can be milked in the media for their anti-gun agenda.

          Says alot about your “thinking”.

    2. Alan Miller

      instead of working on this problem, we spend our time and energy crying about Trump and letting everyone know that we are a sanctuary city.

      Talk about false equivalency.

  5. Napoleon Pig IV

     
    I’m not so sure this qualifies as “eye opener” material no matter how scary it may have been for the girl and her family. I’m certainly glad she escaped and that the scumbag was caught (and yes, even a mentally ill person doesn’t get away with being a scumbag just because he’s mentally ill).
     
    To put the risk of bad stuff happening in perspective, below are a few randomly selected examples of the odds of bad stuff happening to good people in any given year due to a variety of factors. I’ve included a mix of bad stuff that can be blamed either on a soulless or non-existent deity or that can be blamed on an evil or deranged person. Of course, there are plenty of examples that can be blamed on the victim’s wisdom-less exercise of free will (like falling out of a tree or getting bitten after pulling a dog’s tail), but I’ve left those out.
     
    a.       Childhood cancer diagnosis:  32 cases per 100,000
     
    b.       Child killed in an auto accident: 4.3 per 100,000
     
    c.       Human lightning strike:  0.3 hits per 100,000
     
    d.       Child kidnapped by a stranger:  0.3 cases per 100,000
     
    I suggest that the unfortunate appearance of any given mentally impaired individual at any given location is just bad luck and provides essentially no insight into the safety of Davis as a town in which to raise kids.
     
    Preparing for low probability events is useful, and I’m in favor of teaching kids how to defend themselves (physically and mentally), but it might be more beneficial to focus on the more commonly encountered bad stuff that’s out there.

    1. quielo

      “but it might be more beneficial to focus on the more commonly encountered bad stuff that’s out there.” Or we could be proactive and enact policies to reduce the number of mentally ill people in Davis.

        1. quielo

          Robb and Lucas could hold a number of listening sessions with community groups soliciting ideas and reiterating the city’s opposition to child kidnapping.

          However this is an actual threat rather than political theater so I expect they will do nothing.

    2. hpierce

      Sure… in this instance the preparation would be to teach, “run, hide, phone/report”.  Got that one solved.  The young lady and her parents should be proud.

  6. Stefanos Sättermark

    Piggybacking off of the thoughts of the very first commenter on this article, I can attest to Sander’s mental illness.

    I actually came of age, of sorts, with him when he lived here outside Washington, D.C. We went to college together and spent many a night talking about the mysteries of the universe.

    But he was/is a troubled soul. He had an abusive upbringing and hung around the wrong crowds from high school into early adulthood. Drugs and alcohol were always a dark cloud over his life.

    He actually took a turn for the worse after crashing his motorcycle on the highway because he suffered brain damage from it. After that incident he changed and became more aggresive and combative and our friendship quickly crumbled.

    It is sad to see how far he has fallen, and, though I do not condone his actions in this case, I do feel pain for him for all of the conflicted feelings inside him.

    I hope this poor girl is not scarred by this incident, and I also hope that he gets the help he needs to someday function appropriately in society.

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