A homeless man with a lengthy criminal record was behind bars this week after he tried to kidnap a young girl from her mother's arms at a Venice Beach pizzeria before being tackled by the victim's uncle, according to police and the family.
The startling crime took place about 7 p.m. on Jan. 4, Los Angeles Police Department officials said.
Evan McLaurin-Nelson, 31, approached a woman who was with her child and told the mother that he knew the girl and needed to "save her," police said in a written statement.
He then followed the mother until she sat down with her 6-year-old daughter in her lap.
McLaurin-Nelson grabbed for the girl, but was forcefully pushed away by a male family member, according to police and surveillance camera footage of the incident.
"Several seconds later, the suspect attempted to grab the girl again," according to the statement. "This time, the victim's family member was able to grab the suspect and throw him to the ground. He wrestled with the suspect for several minutes until LAPD Pacific Division officers responded and took the suspect into custody."
It took six officers to subdue the man, who appeared to be intoxicated, family members said.
The family member who intervened was the girl's uncle and a U.S. Army veteran, family members said.
The girl told KTLA the experience was terrifying.
"It was so scary," she said. "I was bawling my eyes out because I was scared I was going to get taken away from my mommy and daddy."
Police described McLaurin-Nelson as a homeless man who moved to California from Las Vegas about three years ago. He has a criminal history in both California and Nevada, with arrests for alleged crimes including false imprisonment, indecent exposure, battery and disorderly conduct.
He pleaded not guilty Wednesday to charges of attempted kidnapping and resisting or obstructing police, according to Los Angeles County Superior Court records. He was scheduled to return to court Jan. 20.
Bail for McLaurin-Nelson was set at $160,000.