GIFFORD — A 32-year-old man is suspected of grabbing an 11-year-old girl and trying to pull her to him outside of a local restaurant, deputies said. The man later told the business owner he just wanted to buy the girl some food.
Jerry Lamar McKenzie, of the 1100 block of Royal Palm Boulevard, Vero Beach, was charged with battery. He is being held at the Indian River County Jail on $2,500 bond.
Deputies were called about midnight Jan. 6 to the 4500 block of 33rd Avenue in response to the incident. Deputies spoke with the girl’s mother, who said the suspect, later identified as McKenzie, had grabbed and pulled her daughter.
The mother said she had earlier sent her daughter next door to pick up food they ordered. She told deputies her daughter has picked up the takeout food several times. When the daughter didn’t return in the usual amount of time, the mother began to worry.
The restaurant owner called for the mother to come outside and get her daughter, deputies said. When the mother and daughter were together again, the girl told her mother about the earlier altercation with McKenzie.
The girl said McKenzie jumped off his bike and approached her. McKenzie told the girl, “You look cute, what’s your name?” and then grabbed and tried to pull her, deputies said.
She said McKenzie asked to buy her food and if she had a cell phone. The girl told deputies she saw white stuff on the side of McKenzie’s mouth that was possibly foaming.
The girl pulled away from McKenzie and ran to the restaurant owner, who was nearby. Deputies spoke to the owner, who said McKenzie begged him to not call police because he had just gotten out of jail.
McKenzie was arrested and taken to the county jail for booking. The name of the business was not available.