The parents of the two girls believed he was trying to kidnap their children.
GASTONIA, N.C. — Gastonia Police arrested a man who is accused of grabbing and hugging two children he didn’t know before snapping selfies with them inside a Food Lion Sunday afternoon.
A Facebook Live video showing parents confronting the man, Elid Sanchez-Fuentes, has since been viewed by tens of thousands of people.
According to arrest warrants and a case report, the incidents happened between 3:45 p.m. and 4 p.m. at the Food Lion off West Garrison Boulevard in Gastonia.
Stacie Carter said she was pulling milk from a shelf when Sanchez-Fuentes fell to the floor next to her daughter.
She said he then tried to give her daughter a $20 bill, but Carter pulled her child away.
“He was like, ‘No, no, no. She a kid. She a kid. Give it to her. Give it to her,'” Carter said.
As they walked to the cash registers, Carter saw Christopher Smith running past her and yelling for his daughter.
Earlier, Smith left his 6-year-old daughter with her older sister, Hannah Dickerson.
Dickerson said Sanchez-Fuentes approached the two of them, hugged the little girl, tried to give her cash, and then snapped a selfie of them.
Dickerson said she froze while the encounter happened.
“I couldn’t think. All I knew was to stand there,” Dickerson said. “I was scared to move, scared to say anything.”
A nearby customer intervened before Smith, Carter and several other customers confronted Sanchez-Fuentes, which was captured by another customer on Facebook Live.
“I had so much rage and anger in me,” Carter said. “The only thing I could see was blood. All I wanted to do was kill him.”
A few minutes into the Facebook Live video, Gastonia Police officers arrived and arrested Sanchez-Fuentes for two counts of misdemeanor assault on a child under 12.
The incident has left both families shocked and anxious.
“Honestly, I told my baby girl, ‘I can’t take you with me,'” Carter said. “I’m terrified.”
Dickerson said she felt guilty for freezing during the incident.
“With me being the one responsible for her at the time, I really feel like I let her down,” Dickerson said.
Smith said his daughter struggled to fall asleep Sunday night.
“She was up till about 2 a.m. this morning, crying and asking, ‘Is the bad guy still in jail?'” Smith said. “She didn’t even eat dinner.”
In court Monday afternoon, Sanchez-Fuentes shook his head as a prosecutor read details of the allegations through an interpreter.
Sanchez-Fuentes remains in jail under a $150,000 bond and an ICE immigration detainer.
Gastonia Police said its investigation is still going while Sanchez-Fuentes is scheduled to be back in court on January 27, 2021.
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