Man tried to sexually assault 5-year-old girl near Central Long Beach school, police say

Police arrested a man who was detained by bystanders after he tried to sexually assault a 5-year-old girl near a Central Long Beach school, according to authorities.

Police said they got a call about some kind of trouble at Orange Avenue and 20th Street around 5 p.m. Thursday. When they got there, they found a group of bystanders keeping a man from leaving, according to authorities.

“Once on scene, officers determined the detained suspect, a male adult, attempted to sexually assault a female juvenile,” LBPD spokeswoman Arantxa Chavarria said.

KTLA reported that a woman told them a man approached the girl while a group of 5- and 6-year-old kids were practicing flag football.

“She said the man took off his clothes and tried to take off the girl’s clothes before the team’s coaches chased after him,” KTLA reported.

The man police arrested lives a few blocks away, according to jail booking records. Police identified him as 22-year-old Steven Garcia. He was taken into custody on suspicion of attempted rape and held in lieu of $250,000 bail, according to authorities.

Authorities are now assessing his mental state, Chavarria said. There’s no prior connection between Garcia and the victim, police said.

The Long Beach Unified School District has a campus at the corner of Orange and 20th where students from Jefferson Middle School have been temporarily attending classes, but the incident didn’t happen on school property, according to district spokesman Chris Eftychiou.

Police said they couldn’t provide more detail on exactly where the incident happened in order to protect the privacy of the victim. Detectives are still investigating.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated with the girl’s age and to give more details about the school at Orange Avenue and 20th Street.

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Jeremiah Dobruck is the breaking news editor for the Long Beach Post. He began his journalism career in 2007 as an intern at Palos Verdes Peninsula News and has worked for The Forum Newsgroup in New York City, the Daily Pilot and the Press-Telegram. He lives in Torrance with his wife, Lindsey, and their two young children, Paul and Simon.