MODESTO -- A registered sex offender who sexually assaulted a 15-year-old girl on a transit bus Tuesday morning in Modesto was taken down by four homeless men and held until officers arrived, police said. The suspect had been paroled from prison just the day before.
The assault occurred about 7:30 a.m. on a Modesto Area Express bus on Yosemite Boulevard as it was en route to downtown, police said. Witnesses said the girl was riding with two other young people and was on her way to school.
Police said a passenger on the bus, Kevin Michael Long, attempted to talk with the 15-year-old girl and made unwanted sexual comments to her. Long lunged at the girl and was groping her when four other passengers on the bus intervened and pulled him away, police said.
The passengers wrestled Long to the floor of the bus and held him until the bus pulled into the Transit Center on Ninth Street. There, Modesto police officers boarded the bus and arrested 37-year-old Long.
He was booked in jail on suspicion of lewd acts with a minor, sexual battery and a parole violation. Police said Long had been released Monday from Corcoran State Prison and paroled to Modesto.
"I am just thankful that we had citizens on that bus who were willing to take action," interim Police Chief Gene Balentine said. "Had they not been there, it's scary to think of what would have happened."
According to police and witnesses, Long got on the MAX bus on Yosemite near the Modesto Gospel Mission, where he had stayed Monday night. Four other men who often stay at the mission Joe Barretta, Ken Falls, Curtis Mitchell and another man also got on the bus on Yosemite.
The 15-year-old girl was sitting in the bus with two other young people. Barretta and Falls said they didn't know Long, but said he had been disruptive during a spiritual service at the mission. They said Long continued to act strangely as the bus traveled on Yosemite toward downtown.
According to Barretta, Long tried to talk with the girl and made a sexually explicit remark to her. Barretta said he confronted Long. "I asked him what he had said to the girl. He repeated it and then lunged at her."
Barretta said Long put a hand on the girl's shoulder and then groped her. Barretta, who uses a cane because he has a disabled hip, said he jumped on Long and wrestled him to the floor of the bus. Falls, Mitchell and the other passenger joined in to hold down Long.
The witnesses said the girl was hysterical after the attack.
"I had him in a headlock," Falls said. "He was still struggling. Another guy got on his legs and held them down, and one other guy got involved."
Falls said Long was trying to get to his backpack, but they would not let him, in case there was a weapon in it.
There was no explanation for why the bus continued on. As the bus traveled through downtown, a passenger got off near the Modesto police station, at 10th and G streets. He entered the station and told police he had witnessed an assault on the bus.
Officers responded to the Transit Center, where they boarded the MAX bus and found the men holding Long on the floor.
Officers placed Long in handcuffs and took him to the police station.
Jumped in despite aches, pains
The homeless men came to the girl's rescue despite their physical limitations.
Barretta, an ex-Marine, hobbles around on a bad hip. Falls, who wears a brace for an infected foot, said he once worked as security guard for a Las Vegas casino. Mitchell has struggled with a lower back injury. The other passenger who assisted was identified as "Dave," his last name unknown.
Barretta said he regularly sees the 15-year-old girl with other young people on the bus. "These kids are nice. We were not going to let anything like this happen on this bus," he said.
Falls said he wants to see the suspect put away. "He ought to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. I have two daughters myself. I can't even comprehend him doing that kind of stuff," he said.
According to court records, Long had a 1996 conviction in Stanislaus County for assault with intent to commit rape. He has other convictions for burglary, drug violations and making terrorizing threats.
Balentine said Tuesday that he did not know the circumstances of Long's release from prison. "Obviously, I consider this man extremely dangerous and I don't think he needs to be out walking around," he said.
Bee staff writer Ken Carlson can be reached at email@example.com or (209) 578-2321.