VENICE, CA — A homeless man has been arrested after attempting to kidnap a 6-year-old girl while she ate pizza with her family.
The incident happened in Venice, California, on Saturday night when the girl and her family were eating outside on the patio of a pizza restaurant.
The man allegedly approached the family a series of times before attempting to grab the girl and telling them that he had to save her.
“He started telling us ‘God told me to save her. I have to save her’ so he kept coming up to us trying to take her,” the girl’s father, Riley Pegram, told ABC News’ Los Angeles station KABC.
It was then that relatives sprang into action to stop the man.
“He almost grabbed her,” said Pegram. “I moved him away, my brother pulled him down by the hair, my brother got on top of him, I got on top of him, we’re holding him down.”
The suspect, later identified as Evan McLaurin-Nelson, is a former Las Vegas resident who allegedly moved to California three years ago and is believed to be homeless, according to detectives with the Los Angeles Police Department.
According to KABC, McLaurin-Nelson has an arrest record in California and Nevada which includes battery, indecent exposure and disorderly conduct.
The 6-year-old girl, Neveah Pegram, described in an interview with KABC how her uncle came to save her.
“This guy, he was starting to follow us and then, and then my uncle had to shove him out of the way, and then he kept following us,” she said.
The suspect allegedly kept saying how she reminded him of his niece during the altercation.
"We think he was on something,” said Riley Pegram. “On some type of drugs or something. I don't know if he was homeless but I know he was on drugs.”
Pegram and his brother were able to hold the suspect down until police arrived to the scene where Pegram said it took six officers to finally arrest the man.
“[The police] got him down and he was just yelling out loud ‘save the girl! Save the girl! I need to save her!’” said Pegram.
The Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office filed one count of attempted kidnapping and one count of resisting a peace officer against McLaurin-Nelson.